Camp and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  October 3, 2007

• Not much news out of day one of camp — the big story in Hawaii papers is how excited the high school kids at the gym where the Lakers practiced were. In actual news, Odom got some run but no contact, and Phil Jackson said he wants to make a decision on his contract extension before the season starts.

• John Hollinger’s preview for the Lakers (and the entire West) is out on ESPN.com. Since it’s on Insider I’m not going to give away much info, but here is the bottom line — he predicts 43-39.

He (and most of us agree) that right now the weaknesses are in the paint and at point guard. Where he and I differ is on the bigger problem spot. Hollinger thinks the Lakers have enough depth in the front court to cover their weaknesses (a quantity if not quality argument), where I fret over the lack of quality. He thinks the problem is worse at PG, where the Lakers will ask a lot of Fisher. I think the Farmar/Fisher tandem is going to be a significant improvement at the point from years past.

• As was discussed in the comments, Hollinger picks Houston to win it all. The consensus in the comments was, well, you’re not impressed. My two cents — on paper they are a tiger, and I think the new coach makes them better by the end of the year (the offense should open up), but they have to prove to me they are a San Antonio and not a Utah. I’m not sold, but I wouldn’t be shocked.

• For those of us who cannot swing Lakers season tickets, individual seats go on sale Saturday (Oct. 6). Act quickly or those tickets for the one Hawks game will be snapped up.

• The Isiah Thomas/MSG verdict brings up the contradictions we as sports fans face — to use the sausage analogy, we like the end product but may not want to see how it was made (or who was making it). Mike at Knickerblogger does a great job talking about his personal conflicts on the issue.

I think Darren Rovel at CNBC hit the nail on the head — all the screaming outside Madison Square Garden will be irrelevant if the Knicks can have fans screaming with joy inside the arena. It is all about wins and losses. Win and the fans forgive you. But if the losses mount for New York, the issues from the trial will be an additional weight. (Hat tip to True Hoop.)

• In the baseball playoffs, I’m pulling for Boston. The reason is pretty simple — my wife used to live in Boston, is a Red Sox fan, and as anyone married (or in a serious relationship) knows, if she’s happy my life is easier.

But I have some people I want to see do well. When they played at Long Beach State, I got to see a lot of Troy Tulowitzki and Jered Weaver, and Troy was a personal favorite — he was a throwback, a true Dirtbag, a guy who played hard and with passion. It’s great to see him thrive at the next level. (By the way, also still around from Long Beach State are Cub Steve Trachsel and Yankee Jason Giambi.)

Kurt

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72 responses to Camp and Other Thoughts

  1. My mom went to Long Beach State. Don’t forget that. She’s not currently signed to any team right now, though. But she’s got a wicked slider, so we’re hoping next year.

  2. LAKERS SIGN ANDRE PATTERSON

    The Los Angeles Lakers have signed free agent forward Andre Patterson, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released.

    Patterson, a former UCLA Bruin who transferred to Tennessee for his junior and senior years of eligibility, played last season for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League. In 50 games including 36 starts with the D-Fenders, Patterson averaged 10.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.62 blocked shots in 32.3 minutes.

    Patterson also played for the Lakers 2007 Summer-Pro League team, averaging 4.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in four games.

    The Lakers preseason roster now stands at 18.

  3. More seriously- Hollinger brings up the schedule problems we had last year with so many home games at the beginning of the season. Have you guys scrutinized the schedule for such anomalies in this season? I just checked it out and February will be brutal with a 9 game road trip, followed by the all star game and a homer, then another 3 game road trip. That’ll be a cricial stretch.

    But the good news is we finish soft with a home heavy schedule and not a lot of perennial heavyweights. Hopefully the season won’t have fallen apart by then and we can get some Mo going into the postseason.

    On the other hand we want to start fast to get morale high for the rest of the season, but we face a lot of teams early on that were in the playoffs last year. If we do well in those, great, but it doesn’t give us much chance to play ourselves into shape.

    Sorry if this has been talked about before. My head’s been in the sand this off season, but I’d love to hear what the more knowledgable think about our schedule.

  4. 4. We have talked about it before but it’s a very valid topic. Last year the Lakers home-heavy schedule did hide their defensive problems — they won a lot of close games at home so their record may have looked better than it actually was. But the injuries came at the same time as the tough part of the schedule, and they never recovered.

    This year, November and February are tough. But I’d rather have it hard early and a little easier at the end than the other way around, personally.

  5. I’m not sure I could bring myself to pull for the Red Sox, even if my wife were a fan.

  6. Im rooting for the Dodgers in the playoffs…what, they didn’t make it, well, I guess its ABTA, anybody but the angels.

  7. I couldn’t root for the Red Sox either. I’ve been a Yanks fan since I was like 7 or 8 and there’s no way I could ever root for the Saux.

    Back on topic, the schedule is something that I don’t really worry about. I remember the Lakers playing tough stretches when healthy and doing just fine. To be honest, the Lakers seem to show up for the big games, San Antonio, Dallas, etc., and play down to the level of their competition when they play scrub teams. To me, that is a big problem to build any kind of consistency and team chemistry. If they could take care of business against the likes of most of the Eastern Conference teams, the bottom dwellers of the West, and injury depleted teams (like the Hornets and Bobcats last year), then that’s half the battle right there. They can’t relax and lose games they should win.

  8. Chise, right on the money, you nailed it. the Lakers have to play every game like it’s their last, and they should be ok. I’m looking to players like Fish, and Kobe to show by example, hustle, play D…and of course we know we’re gonna get that from Ronnie too. I’m just praying that Kwame in a contract year will play like we’ve never seen him before. with a little luck, there will be player position rivalries, showing hustle and desire earning playing time, then it’s up to the coaching staff to work that competative drive into 48 min of 5 positions playing their butts off.

  9. I think that Fisher in place of Parker is just a minor improvement. Parker is better at both 3-pt and overall FG shooting (at least last season), is much more athletic, and is bigger. An already slow team just got slower. Fisher is steadier, fits into the offense better, and is great in the locker room. Overall not a whole lot better. The biggest problem with FIsher is the impact his contract will have for the next several years on free agent signings.

  10. Fisher is a significant improvement over Parker regaurdless of shooting percentage. We already get more than enough offense out of the backcourt (via Kobe). What we need is someone to get the ball rolling around the perimiter and into the post, or driving to draw attention and dish when the opportunity presents itself. What we don’t need is a PG who is looking to jack a 3 in the middle of a set play or take circus shots around the hands of a 7-footer. Farmar should show some improvement this year (he’s too hard- nosed not to have raised his game in the off-season), and he was already a better “pure” point gaurd than Smush. So, yeah, I’m wiith Kurt on this one…. but, as far as the Red Sox go, he’s on his own.

  11. 11) I guess the proof will be in the pudding. Fisher is not the Fisher of old, and even the old Fisher was never more than a mediocre NBA player, which is what Parker was last season.

  12. I feel that the combination of Fisher and Farmar will fair quite well at our point guard slot. I hope I am correct in this assertion, that a good amount of Deron Williams’ strides and improvements of his second season could be attributed to the presence of, and sharing minutes with, Fisher. Hopefully, Derek will bolster our second your point in similar fashion. I really like Farmar as a player, think he has a good fundamental skill set with good game IQ. I am not holding my breath for Kwame, however, and would rather see Mihm get more burn. Hopefully butter fingers makes me eat that last sentence though…

    Oh, and Lakers, please beat the friggin’ Bobcats… Sheesh (although they might make a bit of noise out East….)

  13. 12. Two thoughts. First, it is not just Smush. Remember it was Smush subbed out by rookie Farmar/Sasha (and by the playoffs Farmar had stolen Smush’s job). This year you’ve got Fish bringing some offensive stability (he will look to force his own shot less than Smush) playing about 22 minutes a game and a more experienced, stronger Farmar playing 25 or so. I think who plays more in any given game will be a matchup thing, but the combo of Fisher/second-year Farmar will be a big improvement, on defense in particular.

    I have said in the past that Fish on defense is not good, never was and he has declined. But Farmar (and maybe some Crittenton) will help that. And if we get decent team defense and some blocks in the paint, it helps more.

    But you’re right about one thing exhelodrvr, the proof will come starting Oct. 30. Before then we are just guessing.

  14. I typically don’t agree with those ESPN clowns, but this time I have to.

    Fisher is on the downside of his career, but he’ll be forced to play about 30-35 minutes per game (about what he played in LAL and GS when he started). I’m not betting on a huge improvement from Farmar, though maybe he gets 5 more of Sasha’s minutes to come up to 20 per game. The main advantage of this years PG is the attitude improvement (by subtraction of Parker). Talent between this year’s PG’s and last is pretty even.

    Houston will be a force this year (after years of unfulfilled potential). Adelman is a very underrated coach who has a history of bringing out the best in players. Tmac and Yao should have their best years due to the change in system. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rockets dislodge one of the big three (SA, Dallas, Phx) in the regular season. Post season is a different story though ….

  15. it’s true, interior defense always starts with help in the paint..name a good defensive guard that doesn’t have a big man waiting in the paint…you take away their ability to penetrate and your job gets that much easier

  16. While I think Fisher’s D is suspect, he has managed to post a net positive PER at the PG position the last two season (and he had major minutes there both seasons, so it isn’t a anamoly due to small sample size). The effect seems to mostly be due to limiting the number of times his guy goes to the line (his opponent has had a lot less FTA/48 minutes) and forcing more turnovers than he commits, rather than lowering scoring or FG%. So I’d say Fisher’s primary defensive impact will simply be in not making the sort of stupid reaching fouls that Smush often committed, and, as Hollinger pointed out, forcing turnovers via flopping. He also tends to take care of the ball, so that will lower turnovers (and reduce opponent possessions). His pick and roll defense is still terrible, but he does bring a net positive out there (and a +6.1 PER improvement relative to Smush).

  17. great post Rob. I hope Phil makes a concerted effort to split the PG minutes between Farmar and Fish, and Critt, if he proves ready

  18. 15 -

    No way we give Fish 30-35 minutes per game. Farmar will get the majority of the minutes. Fish is here to mentor and bring a winning attitude back to the franchise. Not to carry the workload in the back court.

    And Phil has been beating Adelman for years. I like the fact that he is coaching Houston. For some reason I find comfort in that fact.

  19. Fisher is a massive improvement over Smush regardless of what he does on the floor. Fish is a fantastic locker room guy, and a natural leader. He knows the offense, and while isn’t a great defender, does the little things like take charges and dive for loose balls that you want the younger kids to see and emulate. Being the president of the Player’s Association means he has the respect of everyone in the league including, maybe most importantly, #24. As an added bonus, he doesn’t have his head up his ass.

  20. I think 25 mpg is way more Fisher’s speed. That leaves Farmar with 20-25 (unless Crit really makes an impact on Jackson). I don’t think the mainstream commentators (ESPN, etc.) really had a good look at Farmar last season. When you are not a “top prospect” and you don’t start (at least, not for a majority of the season) it takes a few years to make an impact on a reporter whose job is to moniter the entire league (and in some cases, many other sports). Fisher is a known entity and Farmar is not. It makes sense that the nationally-minded experts would assume Fisher is the only decent PG option the Lakers have. It then follows that he would have to play like a PG in his mid-twenties for L.A. to win. The local experts, who have seen Farmar’s potential up close, are more likely to view this year’s PG situation as a significant upgrade.

  21. DMo,
    Very, very good observation. The PG situation might be better with a younger and know quantity, but I don’t thing PG is the position we are going to be lamenting this year. PF is the IF position we have to worry about and we have several ways to go with the squad we have.

  22. I think Fisher will play the same roll as Ron Harper played during his Laker years. A solid 20 minutes a game. Make sure everyone on the court knows where to go in the offense, play solid D and make a few shots.

    On a side note, why would anyone think Houston could come out of the west? Last I looked at their roster I didn’t see a quality PF. I see a ton of guards, T-Mac, Y. Ming and Shane B. Someone has to rebound and although C. Hayes is decent, he’s not enough.

  23. 23 -

    Luis Scola is a pretty decent PF, as he proved in the World Championships this summer. Add Hayes and Yao to that mix, and they have some pretty good rebounders.

    That team is pretty stacked no matter how you look at it. But it all depends on McGrady staying healthy.

  24. Oh, and how could I forget Mutumbo. Also a great rebounder for the Rockets.

  25. Smush got owned by Eric Snow of all people this past year. Feb 15th 2007, snow was in the paint the whole game causing chaos. Eric freakin Snow. I dont care how bad Fish’s D is. It is better then smush’s.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=270215013

  26. With the way Kobe looked this summer, and the weight he has lost, I wouldnt be surprised to see Kobe playing point guard (on defense) while Lamar and Luke handle the playmaking responsibilities during games this season. Kobe played great pressure d on several pg’s over the summer for short streches. The lineup could look like this

    c- bynum
    pf-lamar
    sf-luke or vlad
    sg-mo evans or luke
    pg-kobe

  27. If Kobe has to concentrate too much on defense it will take away from his offense too much, and the rest of the team can probably not make up the difference yet. His defensive efforts will need to be in spurts.

  28. 27- I think that was Kobe’s thinking last season, and I think it was a bad move. We have a young team, and if the leaders of the team should set the tone defensivley. That’s why I’m happy Fisher is in town. Hopefully that spirit, coupled with his expolits at Team USA, will get Kobe to realize defense isn’t something any Laker has the luxury of conserving.

  29. I also think Kobe’s knee surgery had something to do with his defense last year. At the start of the season he was not 100% with that knee, and he didn’t take some of the chances and wasn’t as aggressive on defense because of it. Even when his knee felt better and his conditioning was back to 100% he was never quite the same on defense.

  30. Kobe was hesitant to do those under-the-basket moves he usually does until later in the season… Also, I believe Kobe honed his 3-pt shot last year due to his inability to explode to the basket, draw the foul and attract double teams. That being said, things can change this year.

    Kobe can focus on the more important things – one that only he can do – play defense and break down the defense. You pretty much can’t do both of you are nursing a recovering knee and throwing up fade-away threes from 25 ft.

    And as for Fish, the reason why we already are better at the point is Fisher does not gamble like Smush does. He stays on his man and he can body him up to stay in front so that Kwame or Bynum does not have to be forced to block the Tony Parkers of the world 10x a night. Fish is not the defensive gem but his heft in figure is a force to reckon with in screens.

    I believe Jordan Farmar will be my best bet as to being the X-factor. Say Kwame if you please, or that Odom will be an all-star, but I will be content where they are. Farmar is where I am pinning my hopes on becoming a semi-Tony semi-Deron type of player or even just flashes of it on his 2nd year. With Smush out of the way, Farmar could perhaps be given the green light to shoot like Smush did on those corner threes? A decent 18-20ftr will do.

  31. Warren-
    Let’s hope that Radmonovich can at least return to his Clippers heyday in terms of hitting those 3′s that Smush was so fond of. Vlad is a major X-factor for me, simply because we got less than nothing from him last year. Any production would be pure iceing. He will get more than enough open looks in the Triangle, so if he can hit them (as he has done on other teams), our arsenal will get some diversification without the front office having to lift a finger.

  32. Hollinger must be able to afford some really good s*** to pick the Rockets to win it all.
    The only PG the team has who actually passes the ball has been moping all summer after the team brought in not 1,not 2,but 3 new points. Mike James knows he was brought back to provide instant offense-ie jack up shots. Francis has been trade away 3 times because teams soon learn he won’t pass as a PG and he gets killed on defense as a SG.
    Yao is playing w/a bad shoulder that e won’t have surgery on until after the Olympics because he wants to play for China.
    The primary wing reserve is Bonzi Wells who in the 3 yrs before he signed w/Houston only played in 180 games.(T-Mac has played in 196 w/Houston and he’s considered fragile!) Bonzi is already down w/a groin problem,just as at start of camp last yr and in the yr before that groin problems helped limit him to 52 games. The other back-up wings are Snyder and Head. Head may have been the worst defensive 2 in the League. Snyder couldn’t figure out Sloan’s system in Utah,or Byron Scotts’ in New Orleans,or JVG’s in Houston. Personally,I think Morey would have been much better off signing Eddie Jones over Francis.
    Now if the Rockets can package something for Turkoglu I might jump on the bandwagon. Until then I worry that the Rockets are paper thin in the SG/SF department and have way too many egos in the PG spot to be contenders this yr.

  33. My two cents on Smush vs Fisher…
    A major component of the PG job description is leadership. Fisher has it,Smush doesn’t.

  34. Really like the Houston prediction, for it’s boldness more than anything. I don’t know about favorite to win, but they’ve definitely made the leap from second to first tier in my eyes. Bonzi’s PER was twice what it was last year under Adelman. Scola is going to be one of the better PFs in the league. And Francis is only crummy-seeming when you’re paying him a max deal. He’s undoubtedly an improvement over Alston. A 52-win injury-plagued team just improved at pretty much every spot. How can you not be scared?

  35. carter blanchard,
    You are all counting the parts, not the team – same as the pundits do with the Lakers. The Lakers have more than the sum of their parts, but Houston has less. One key is that the Lakers have played together (sort of) for a couple of years with youngsters, but Houston has only just assembled parts and doesn’t know how they all fit together yet. Not that I don’t think Houston won’t compete, but I wouldn’t put them in the top drawer of the West just yet.

  36. NBA.com had EA Sports run a simulation of the 07-08 season. At http://www.nba.com/preview2007/easim.html it had the Lakers finishing 6th in the West at 45-37. Kobe projects to 30 ppg and 7+ assists. Odom is projected to provid 10 rpg.

    Grant it, they project Chicago to miss the playoffs (with NY and Milwaukee beating them) so take all this with a grain or two of salt. PHX wins the title over Boston.

    Me, I think PHX is a sound pick, if Amare and Hill are healthy, and they don’t trade Marion. SA can’t seem to repeat, and Boston … Doc Rivers is the coach, so I don’t see them getting out of the second round.

  37. If not anything else, a better locker room atmosphere with Fisher makes him very valuable to this team. His relationship with Kobe helps a lot.

  38. 36. I agree chemistry’s important and what not, but this team’s core (Yao (27) /TMac (28) /Battier (29)) is intact, they’ve upgraded their major weaknesses (PG and PF), and even got a better coach. Again, they won 52 games last year with Yao missing a ton and McGrady out some too. Obviously counting on the health of those two is a risky proposition, but even standing pat I’d have no reason to think they wouldn’t win 50+ again. With the improvements they’ve made? Won’t be at all surprised when they hit 60.

  39. This is an interesting quote from training camp. It might mean that Coby Karl gets the 15th roster spot.

    The player with the most impressive touch through two days of training camp is quite possibly Coby Karl, an undrafted free-agent guard out of Boise State.

    “He might be one of our best shooters on the team already,” Jackson said. “He’s got a great stroke.”

    Link:
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakerep4oct04,1,6913838.story?track=rss&ctrack=3&cset=true

  40. Mike in the Mountain West October 4, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Bucher has a nice little revenge article up on ESPN today slamming the Lakers for being delusional about their chances. He’s barely able to hide his disdain that his prediction about Kobe never came true. He lists everything he can find that puts the lakers in a bad light and not one positive sign. It’s really an amazing example of pure hit piece. With that kind of talent to smear Bucher should apply for a job in politics.

    Here’s the article: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/trainingcamp07/columns/story?columnist=bucher_ric&page=lakershawaii

  41. Mike in the Mountain: Mitch has pretty much acted like nothing happened this summer, and has been inexplicabley claiming that he doesn’t see what nearly every other basketball analyst does. Odom and Kwame are both still recovering from injuries (the story of their career). Bynum was/is injured, but he was able to go through practice. So, again, Bucher is right: if they aren’t healthy to begin with, they can’t, be definition, be healthy, right?

    The starting rotation in camp has been Fish, Kobe, Walton, Turiaf and Mihm. No embelishment there. Likewise, he is correct–that line up isn’t necessarily cause for alarm, but isn’t cause for celebration. Hard to argue that point.

    The Lakers, and their fans, used to be about championships. Now they seem to be ok with being, well, ok. Again, hard to argue with the facts here.

    Radmanovic is a lousy, lying snowboarder. Again, hard to argue that point.

    Bynum not ready to make a significant impact? Hard to say–but Phil is playing Mihm with the starters, so that says something about Phil’s confidence in Bynum’s abililty to make an impact. Not a stretch by Bucher.

    Odom is perennial distracted-if not by his family issues, then with lord knows what. Radmanovic has never shown a whole lot of motivation–ask his past coaches–so saying he’s showing a bite-sized hunger to improve isn’t really a lie either. There were doubts Mihm would ever play again, and, yes, he is the starting center. Where’s the smear?

    Matching last seasons start will be a challenge because the schedule is harder and we don’t even know if we’ll go into the season at full strength (Odom/Kwame injuries).

    Kobe cannot impact the game quite as much as Duncan since he cannot anchor the defense in the paint. The Spurs have surrounded Duncan with the appropriate talent, the Lakers have not. Again, where are the smears?

    The Spurs do have more talent (2 other all-stars, 1st team all-defensive player, championships experienced roleplayers in Horry, etc.).

    Jackson does want Kobe to facilitate this season. He does want Kobe to push the tempo and run. He does want Kobe to score. He does want Kobe to play defense. Kobe has limited energy. Thus, Kobe won’t be able to do it all lacking the cast that Duncan has. Again, no smear there.

    So I’m not sure what there is to be upset about really–other than people have some weird personal issue with Bucher because he reported what Kobe or Kobe’s representatives told him to this summer.

    Sure, the team has made some marginal improvements, but they still have many of the same problems they did last season (health, lack of motivated and focused players, lacking skill sets). This isn’t a team constructed to contend, but one that, if all the cards fall just right, can squeak into the second round and lose. I’m not sure why it is the responsibility of a national reporter to wear purple and gold colored glasses when reporting. Yes, Bucher is a little dramatic–but that’s what he’s paid to do. The fundamental point–that the Lakers are acting like everything is ok, despite having not actually addressed the issues they had—stands.

  42. There are a lot teams in this league with a lot of weaknesses going into training camp. Which is why I question the intentions of Bucher’s article. Why the Lakers? Why now? Why so aggressively? It’s day 3 of camp: if the team can’t be positive about their chances now, then why bother playing the regular season? Why not just throw in the towel? You may not see any smearing in this article, Rob, but every point you defend is cherry-picked and framed in the worst possible light. If most of us agree that the Lakers are at least marginally better than last year, and that our main problem last year was injuries, why doesn’t it stand to reason that a healthy Lakers team will have a markedly better season? Yes there are still some real health concerns, but it is important to note the difference between getting over an injury and a surgery. If a player has off-season surgery, it is normal to go easy on that player until the games actually count. Many other teams are now giving key players a pass on scrimmages for this very reason. But, in Bucher’s mind, this is no less than a sign of the apocalypse. Some adjustments to the roster will need to be made as the season progresses, but let’s not forget that all of the missed trade opportunities Kobe bemoaned were made available during the regular season, not the off-season. The truth is, there are better deals to be had when negotiating with GMs who are seeing their inadequies on the court every night (as opposed to those who are discussing player movements on a cell phone in Tahiti). Byrd may be willing to trade J.O. for less than Odem/Bynum once he sees how bad his team is and how mismatched J.O. is with the younger lineup. I’m not saying Mitch is a genius, but I don’t think we should assume the training camp roster is permanent, nor do I think we need to assume this team will be as bad as Ric (why no K?) Bucher hopes it will be.

  43. Everyone is posturing–doing what they need to do. Nobody knows what will happen. That’s why we go to see the games.

    I think that Mitch has reason to be optimistic: he’s done a good job of putting a balanced team together. The Lakers have more options than they’ve had recently to either stand pat or trade on a moment’s notice.

    I don’t think that they’ve got much of a plan beyond this stage unfortunately–and that’s what’s most troubling. Nobody does very well when they are reacting.

    The mostly hidden news is that the Lakers may be doing a certain amount of adding by subtracting.

    IMO, subtracting Smush changes the point differential about 4 points in the Lakers favor–no matter who else plays point guard at the end of close games.

    Subtracting minutes makes Andrew more productive.

    Now if we only get that trade . . . .

  44. Mike in the Mountain West,
    Bucher’s analysis is pretty accurate. The Lakers are not noticeably better than last year. They could possibly be, if injuries are minimal and they get improvement from a number of players. But based on the most recently (end of last season) exhibited skills of the team, they are still a lower playoff seed, out in the first round, team.

  45. Mike in the Mountain West October 4, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Rob,

    You’re right that many, although not all, of Bucher’s points are valid, indeed many other analysts have made similar observations. His article, however, really isn’t about the lakers problems but rather their “mood” during camp in the face of those problems.

    He seems to expect, possibly even want, the Lakers to have long faces, to complain to the media, and to generally be depressed. He even suggests that Turiaf’s enthusiastic encouragement of a teammate during practice qualifies him for the loony bin. What does he expect Turiaf to say, “Great layup Cookie, but you know it doesn’t really matter because we suck anyway.” ? Cmon, that’s ridiculous.

    The fundamental point of his article is to portray the lakers as foolish and deluded and to potray himself as a clear-thinking sober analyst. His prediction that Kobe would never wear a Lakers uniform again make him now look like a fool. No other analyst was willing to say that because they knew it was unlikely Kobe would follow through with any of his threats. Bucher was willing to make those claims to get more face time on ESPN and got burned, and now, even if subconscioulsy, he wants to burn the lakers.

    Putting aside the tone of his article several of his points are weak if not disingenuous. First, Odom may be distracted personnally but it’s never affected his on court performance so there is no reason to think it will have any impact this year either. Last year was one of his best with the Lakers and he was great in the playoffs. “Distracted Lamar” is a strawman argument.

    Second, Bucher claims “all early indications are that Bynum isn’t ready to make a significant impact,” but the only indication he gives is that Bynum isn’t starting in camp. Who is starting now has almost nothing to do with who will start Oct. 31. Plus, Bynum isn’t starting because he has a minor injury, not because he can’t contribute. On top of that, Bucher never mentions the great reviews that Bynum has gotten for his hard work this summer and Hollinger, an analyst in a whole nother class than Bucher, thinks the starting job is Bynum’s to lose.

    As for the Spurs comparison, as far as I know that’s all Bucher. I’ve never seen a quote from anyone involved with the Lakers making the claim that they can win a championship this year or that they are patterning themselves after the Spurs. He’s responding to an argument no one has ever made.

    I don’t think it’s true that Lakers fans are ok with just a good team. We’re just not fairweather fans. We support our team through thick and thin and realize that sometimes these things take time. Clearly the front office has been trying to make deals this summer, for Garnett, Oneal, and Marion, but nothing has panned out and I applaud management for resisting the pressure to make a trade just to make a trade. That would be highly unproductive.

  46. Bucher is just another journalist trying to gain national attention by using Kobe’s name in an article.

    It has proven very successful for many columnists out there struggling for a real story.

  47. Great comments, Mike. The Lamar thing was a joke, and worse, a groin kick to a player who has had to battle through a series of personal tragedies that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Bynum’s contribution is anybody’s guess. Bucher has chosen to lowball him, but I’m not sure it’s a wise move to lowball a 20 year-old 7-footer with huge upside who has been working his butt off all summer specifically to prove the Ric Buchers of the world wrong.

  48. It wasn’t so much what Bucher said. He makes some very good observations. It was more the tone in which he wrote it. Maybe its just because I am biased, but it seems like there was just a wishful tone that the lakers team will blow up this season.

    And I agree the Lamar comment was uncalled for. Lamar showed a lot of heart last year in the playoffs. He played pretty damn well despite his injuries and his personal loss.

  49. If Ric Bucher is upset because he feels ‘blindsided’ by Kobe, then 1) he better stand in line and 2) he shouldn’t take it out by lambasting the Laker attitude and needlessly belittling the team. The Lakers have as much, or more, chance of an upside as they do to follow Ric’s prediction.

    The problem for him is that he has now twice staked out a Laker position on the extreme end of the probable spectrum. If he is also wrong here he will be labeled (I certainly hope) as either a biased reporter or one with extremely bad sources and judgment. This is not a good position for a national sports maven. He will no longer be credited with either having insider Laker information, nor will he be a credible mouth for the most popular NBA team. Here’s hoping he gets his just desserts.

  50. Great comments by all. Ric does come off like a lover scorned. His tone seems overly pessimistic about the Lakers chances and he has figuered a way to find the downside in a lot of what is going on in camp right now. But that’s okay…as it was said earlier, that’s why the games get played and why games are not decided by the oppinions of journalists.

    I just can’t wait to see what this team is made of. After a summer where everyone got their shots in against Kobe, Mitch, Phil, and just the general state of the team and it’s roster, I really want to see how this team responds. Personally I like surly players. I like when athletes are doubted, because the ones with heart respond well. Personally, I think that our young guys like Andrew and Jordan are ready to prove to Phil and the rest of the team that they can be depended on. I also think that if guys like Bucher continue to search for the negative angle, Kobe and Lamar are going to step it up even further and propel this team to another level….not championship level, but into that Utah range.

    And, there are still deals that can be made. No speculaton here, but we have some assets and it would be nice if, for once, we made a deal at the deadline to try and improve for the stretch run. I can’t wait.

  51. The Lakers’ have an enviable squad in two areas

    Top tier players: Kobe, Lamar

    Young prospects: Bynum, Farnar, Crit, Turiaf

    Where we have problems is in our early mid carreer role players:
    Kwame, Mihm, Cook, Sasha, Vlad, Evans

    I’m sorry but that’s a lot of players, and this is the core of the team. How did we get stuck with so many slugs?

  52. 50 -

    That’s the problem with national sports columnists today. They are far too opinionated. It is no longer news based on fact. It is some guy mouthing off about his personal opinion on a matter he knows little about.

    The problem with writing an opinionated national column about a star figure is that the writer can openly blast someone without that person getting a chance to reply in their own defense. It’s pathetic and disrespectful.

    You can’t speculate on something or assume someone is thinking a certain way, if the words didn’t actually come out of that persons mouth.

    ESPN seems to thrive on this type of journalism these days, and it’s starting to remind me more of E! Entertainment. Gossip.

  53. 53. That is the way of the media, particularly com media and talk radio, is today in part because of economic reasons. Large media outlets are owned by big corporations, most with stockholders. It’s about maximizing profits. To get the ad revenue, you need eyeballs (or ears). Big bold statements and brash opinions tend to draw more eyeballs than more thoughtful opinion. So even guys who do the work and are good reporters are pushed by the system to take more aggressive stances.

    Until people stop watching the Around the Horns and the Stephen A. Smiths of the world, we will just get more of them.

  54. (53)(54),

    The answer to that is Blogging. Blogging has since added an emotion to a report supposed to be filled with quotes that the writer seems to have earned to put in his 2 cents (sometimes more) on every piece he writes.

    In every news article, you are supposed to state the facts, pack up and leave. An editorial piece is where the Editor takes the whole crew with him and state their position on something. Columns in ESPN are both. In fact they are neither since they feature largely the writer’s credibility more than the news itself. So for instance if Bucher reports something from hereon in, every Laker fan will second-guess him or bash him before they will actually know if it is true or not.

    As for me, I take everything with a grain of salt. Always give rumors a chance, never discount a possibility. Perhaps thats why Kurt is irritated by “unfounded” speculations. But thats who I am, and its not gonna change. It might seem like its annoying at times, but I’m the one waiting at the gate saying “I told you so”.

    As for the Lakers, well, Bucher is both right and wrong. He was wrong about Kobe not gonna don “dos quatro” no more, but he is also right that the Lakers are a pinhole away from bursting into thin air. Well that point we all agree, its just a matter of how they were all said. Sometimes, it depends on what glasses we wear – PurpleGold or Hater?

  55. I appreciate all the thoughtfull media commentary, but real basketball fans know who to listen to and who to ignore. If Doug Collins or Stu Lantz or Steve Kerr share an opinion, it’s worth hearing them out. Ric Bucher and Steven A. Smith talk about as much sense as Charles Barkley, but without his tongue-in-cheek grin. The off-season is their regular season, because they aren’t restrained by the sweaty reality of actual games. They can spin away without having to comment on all that annoying basketball that gets played between trade demands and arrests.

    It’s gonna be an interesting season. I’m new to this forum, so I’m really looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts once we have some actual hoops to discuss!!!

  56. This, what I call a corporate problem, is an issue with all news reporting, not just sports. And for the same reason mentioned above. News is driven by eyes/ears and bottom line, not by truth. Ironically, thank god for the internet. While things are wildly speculative in many areas, at least there is room for someone to talk intelligently, tell the truth and not be fired for it.

  57. It’s pathetic to see how low a journalist would stoop after being proven wrong. I’ve been reading this blog for quite a while, and I love the vibe around here :) I like Commenting Rule #6. Always amuses me to read it. Anyhow, I agree with most of you all. I can’t wait to see how this season pans out, and to see the Lakers prove Bucher again (and humiliate him).

  58. (52) Hey Paul,

    Since the days of the Smusher and the comments of Phil, I’ve been on the slug patrol full time. You and I have different lists.

    From your mid career list, I’d agree about Kwame and
    Sasha, but not the rest. From your premeire list, I wouldn’t be the first to raise questions about Lamar. From your prospects list, I’d consider Andrew in transition.

    In terms of slug control, we might create a new category now that we have D Fish.

    The problems happened last year when two or more of our “slugs” played at the same time. Since Smush logged many minutes and played nearly every game, that happened frequently.

    This year, it won’t happen so often.

  59. 52. Where we have problems is in our early mid career role players: Kwame, Mihm, Cook, Sasha, Vlad, Evans

    I think Evans and, if he returns to form, Mihm are good role players, the kind of guys who could work on a championship caliber team. Vlad, if he returns to Clippers-day form, also could be in that mix. Now, Cook (as has been said here before) is a bit of a one trick pony. Sasha and Kwame, well, I’m with you they are not great fits.

  60. By the way, re: Houston. I think (if Yao and T-Mac stay healthy, and that’s a big if) they will jump up to the elite class. I think they get better as the year wears on. That said, I think you have to learn how to win under pressure for the most part in the NBA. There have been exceptions, but usually you have to lose a close one or two before you break through. My guess is Houston makes it to the Western Conference finals and loses there.

  61. re: Slug Patrol

    I say Mo Evans will play his heart out this year considering it is his contract year too. Remember how Tim Thomas seemingly revived his career while playing PF for Phoenix? It was all for that Mid-Level contract the following year. As expected, he vanished last season even with the low-powered Paper Clips.

    Sasha Vujacic, well, might still be figuring out his jumpshot. Best we can do is blindfold him, lobotomize his brain and make him think game-time is still target practice.

    Kwame Brown just happened to “add” to his trade value the incident a Ga. Gosh why this man… And now he’s saying he will have a slow year, hoping it will get better. Yeah right.

  62. I agree with Kurt about Houston. I think if healthy with the addition of Scola, and Adelman as coach they will be an elite team. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went to the NBA finals, but I wouldn’t bet on it. My guess is that they play SA in the WCF and lose. If SA stays healthy this year I think they will repeat.

  63. Inn the fearless forcast department,I like Dallas to come out of the West and lose to the Eastern Champ. I really like the two additions Dallas made in picking up Hassell and Jones. Hassell gives them a strong defender and Jones gives them an outside shooter off the bench. Utah wore McGrady down by throwing waves of fresh defenders at him and Dallas can do the same to Kobe,McGrady,Carmelo,etc w/Howard,Hassell,George and Jones.
    I just think San Antonio is going to be hit by small injuries that will catch up w/them in the Play-Offs.
    Utah is my second choice,but I’m not sold on them as Western Champs and Kirilenko has the potential to be a hugh distraction.
    Phoenix will regret giving away Thomas. Amare is going to be iffy all yr and that means they may have to keep a disgruntled Marion around.
    My Rockets have big problems at the point,no depth behind McGrady and nobody who can-and will-create shots for others besides McGrady. They’re going to end up a 4/5 seed facing the Spurs.

  64. 64. Did you really just pick the champion of the West to lose to the East? I thought picking the Rockets was a little out there, but….

  65. Kurt (65) Detroit is not that bad. If they do not implode like they did against cleveland and Maxiel has a good year (which I think he will) then they could, possibly, maybe beat the western conference team. I wouldn’t bet on it but it could happen.

  66. 66 -

    Unfortunately Detroit still has Curse Webber on their team. Never a good thing.

    I think the East gets a lot stronger this year. I like Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, and Charlotte out of the East this season. And Milwaukee is my sleeper pick this year as well.

    New Jersey got theirselves a big man in Jamaal Magloire, and Nenad Krstic is back as well. That is a potent team now.

    Charlotte will make themselves known this year if they all stay healthy. That team has underacheived thus far and they have now matured enough to be a big threat in the East.

    The East is no longer the push overs they have been in years past.

  67. No doubt the top of the East should be a little better this year, but do you really think they could beat any of the top four in the West in a seven game series? I think the Bulls are a five seed out west.

  68. I still see the teams with the best coaching winning. I think (obviously) San Antonio is the clear favorite, even if they have yet to repeat in their run of titles. If Dallas can avoid the GSW’s (who I think will not succeed like last year), then they do have a good shot to make the finals. Dallas really does have a strong team, Nellie just has their number. Houston is definitely strong, but I see Adelman the same way I see Dunleavy Sr., a guy who get’s a lot out of teams, but can’t ever beat the juggernaut squad.

    In the East, Riles will have Miami ready. And as for the Pistons, I just don’t see Flip suddenly morphing into a guy that gets the most out of his team; great with X’s & O’s but not that great in the “listen to me” departments of motivation and inspiration.

    And call me a homer (but this is a Laker site, so feel the optimism), I think Kobe and Phil move this team to a level where they can contend for a deep playoff run. Improving on D is a must, but I know that Phil has not forgotten how to teach defense. The players just need to buy in, and I think that Phil will get Kobe to lead the team in this regard. I’m not saying we get to the Finals, per se, but a trip to the WCF. I think it’s in the cards. I know camp just opened, but I see a balanced team that has a top 3 player and a top 2 coach that also has role players who can get the job done for their particular niches. The Lakers are a good team, who, when healthy can beat anyone. I just have a good feeling about this team, this season.

  69. Mike in the Mountain West October 5, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    I think a mid-season trade is very very likely for the Lakers. They just have too many assets that other teams will want. In particular I think Kwame’s expiring contract is going to be the target of a number of teams. As for young assets, Bynum, Crittenton, Farmar, and Turiaf will be highly valued. If Kupchak is unable to pull off a good trade that measurably improves the teams, he will have climbed one more rung toward equaling the horrible heights of Kevin McHale.

  70. Honestly I think the only movable pieces are Kwame and Odom at this point.

    We’re in a tight situation because for 08/09 our guaranteed contracts equal ~60mil not including the possible resignings of Turiaf, Evans, and Coby Karl which could equal another 7 million at least. This is also assuming we don’t resign Kwame. I estimate our salary would equal about 68 million assuming a lot more than expected out of Karl. That would put us around 15 million over the cap…unless I’m missing something and there are some contracts from waived players expiring next summer. But if I’m not, that’s a deep hole to climb out of…

    *This was all hoopshype so I may be entirely wrong…

  71. Mike ITW,
    “Bynum, Crittenton, Farmar, and Turiaf will be highly valued”

    Only Bynum. Farmar and Turiaf are going to be career backups. Crit is unproven, and will still be at midseason. Bynum’s value will depend on his performance.