And Now For Something Completely Different — A Game

Kurt —  October 18, 2007

Today we are taking a break from the “Bryant/Jackson/Buss Full Employment For Sports Columnists Act of 2007” to watch some honest to goodness basketball. (If you can’t get enough Kobe saga — or just want an insightful look at the drama in the front office — read the latest from Roland Lazenby over at True Hoop.)

Lakers versus Sonics. In the beautiful city of Bakersfield. Man, can you imagine living the NBA lifestyle — free trips to Bakersfield. With spending money. Damn.

I think we’re all pretty curious about seeing Seattle golden boy Kevin Durant, who is playing the most minutes (26.3) and scoring the most points (16) per game of any Sonic through three preseason games. But that doesn’t mean he has found his way yet — he is shooting an unimpressive 43.2% (eFG%). To be fair, that’s better than Kobe’s 33%, and Durant is shooting 46.2% from three. Still, I think Durant is probably still adjusting to the speed and athleticism of the NBA game, plus the team is figuring out how to use him best and adjust to his style. I still am pumped about watching him.

The Sonics also have been getting good play out of former Clipper Chris Wilcox, who is averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes and is shooting 64%. Wilcox falls into the category of players I have always liked more than most, a guy I think would thrive in the right system. As a side note, Delonte West is expected to sit this one out.

As for a starting lineup for the Sonics: Earl Watson (PG), Kevin Durant (SG), Damien Wilkins (SF), Nick Collison (PF), Robert Swift (C). I got that from Kevin Pelton’s Sonic Beat blog, which you should be reading.

As for the Lakers, plenty has been made of Kobe sitting out three practices and there are numerous theories as to why, but I like Paul’s from the comments — Kobe played a lot of basketball this summer, he should be taking it slower in camp. After the hard work of the summer Phil needs to think about keeping Kobe’s minutes down during the season as well, as much as that is possible (meaning we need a few laughers, ideally ones that are Lakers wins).

Also tonight, Kwame is not expected to play but he might this weekend, and Lamar Odom still will sit out.

In LA you can catch the game on KCAL (channel 9) starting at 7 pm. Nationally you can get your Barkley fix on TNT.

to And Now For Something Completely Different — A Game

  1. Hey Kurt, good post. It will be refreshing to watch some Laker b-ball, however disorganized it may be at this point. I’ve always thought Wilcox had potential. He has always battled injuries but he had a very solid year last season. I like his energy. If Ronny can develop into a Wilcox type player and give us 12 and 8 while shooting a high percentage and sustaining that high energy I would be very pleased. I really like Ronny T. and I’m hoping he gets the starting node on opening night so we can see what he’s got. He reminds me of Otis Thorpe on the Rockets and Horace Grant on the Bulls…..those are the kind of guys you want to go to battle with.

    I’m bracing myself for a rough start for the Lakers. New offense, no significant new talent, players coming off injuries, Kobe/PJ/FO drama, and a tough schedule out of the gate are all going to contribute to a slow start. Hopefully Lakerdom can maintain some perspective through the rough patch ahead.

    It would be nice if we can pull an upset in the playoffs. That said, this team has no chance of contending this year and that kinda sucks. Oh well, still going to watch all the games.


  2. 1. I am still hoping for a .500 November, but this team has to get healthy, play much better defense and show a lot more comfort with the increased tempo to get near that number. Six preseason games in nine days should be a good test.


  3. When I saw the TV box in the times, I was pumped to actually watch some Laker action. Also look forward to see the young and budding Sonics.

    Any Idea of what our starters will be?

    Prediction for a game high: 33 and 11 from my man Ronny…

    Too much of a stretch? Okay…


  4. Kurt,

    I would take a .500 November and get the hell out of dodge. I won’t even get into injuries and off-court drama, that schedule is brutal.

    The interesting thing is this schedule is a bit like two seasons ago where we really hung around .500 for most of the year, finished strong and went into the playoffs with momentum, nearly pulling off an upset.

    I have a question for you. Through all the crap we’ve had to sort through I’ve heard nothing mentioned of Kobe’s intensity on the defensive side of the ball. I know he’s nursing sore knees but maybe you can clue me in on anything you’ve heard in regards to Kobe’s defense and how it compares to how he played for Team USA. Thanks, keep up the good work.


  5. 4, Andrew, Kobe just can’t play Team USA level defense for extended periods in the NBA because he has to carry so much of the offense (he scored plenty in Vegas but didn’t have that load on his shoulders). He needs to conserve energy somewhere. That said, he needs to bring some of that mental energy to the defensive end and get in the faces of teammates who are not holding up their end. Defense in the NBA is a team game (the guys are too good to be contained one-on-one). Kobe said as much early on, saying he expects his teammates to step up.

    Two games into the preseason is too early to read much into how all this is going. After the next six games we’ll have a better — but far from perfect — idea of how things are coming together.


  6. To comment on the Lakers pushing the ball early. This is not a new concept for them. Coach Jackson was trying to do this last year as well. I just read some of Roland Lazenby’s columns (which are awesome btw) and I believe Coach Winters was commenting on how dire it is to secure the defensive rebound and push the ball. Lamar is the key to the fast break as he rebounds and outlets or pushes the ball so well. I can see why the Lakers are struggling so much in the preseason b/c nobody rebounds and has the athleticism that Lamar brings. So once he comes back I’m sure the up tempo pace will look a lot cleaner.

    Winter also talked about how Odom is quite passive and content with being a facilitator. The club knows it needs to take an offensive burden off of Kobe and Lamar is one that needs to be the first one at the reins. In the first 4 games after Kobe’s injury Lamar averaged 28 points. Once Kobe came back it’s hard not to defer to him but that’s what success for the Lakers will take. So the key to the season is getting Odom to score and have a more balanced offense so the Lakers don’t have to depend on Kobe’s offensive sprees anymore. Thus allowing Kobe more energy and focus on defense. Please stay healthy Lamar!


  7. Is it possible November might not be that bad? I know it’s an outside shot, but could it be possible that other teams we face that month will be in just as bad shape as we are such that talent isn’t the major factor? What I mean is, take a team like San Antonio. Usually a major force in the 2nd half of the season, but in the first they are only above average. Whether it’s because of synergy, rust, or just the vets saving energy, who knows, but they aren’t the same team in November as April or June. Same thing last year for teams like Phoenix who we killed the first time around as they tried to re-integrate Amare. Thoughts?


  8. 5) Kurt, thanks. I agree that no one can keep up that intensity on one end of the floor for 35 minutes a night over the course of a 82 game season, but as Kobe’s defensive commitment goes, so goes the rest of the team. At least that’s what I believe. I truly feel that for this team to compete this year Kobe needs to be a leader on defense more than offense. I almost wish PJ would tell Kobe that we might only score 90 pts a game, but its his responsibility to lead the guys in holding the other team to 89.

    We’ll see. Just a raise in defensive intensity might be shocking to my system…but in a good way.


  9. As stubborn as he is I think we will have these Kobe periods in most games — actually that’s why he fills the stands at home and on the road. However, it is the rest of the game we have to have a PG or Lamar bring the ball up. I think this will do more to speed up the game than anything else. Kobe learned to slow up the game while working with Shaq, but Farmar, Crit, and Lamar are all capable of sprinting out with the ball. With Lamar, Kobe, or Crit on the wings to receive passes on the fast break we could increase the number of easy shots. That will allow us to defensively slow down the game. I don’t think we need more offensive possessions, but we need more quick, non-Kobe possessions to ease the load on Kobe. If the game slows down Kobe will dominate the ball.


  10. Sonics: These guys look ripe for the killing. Young, mistake-prone, and defensively challenged.

    We’re a pretty good team if you push all the BS aside. The problem is, the BS is a pile big enough to fill Staples Center.


  11. Regarding defense, there’s really nothing that can be said… It’s only a matter of will and Kobe leading by example. Personal limitations can be compensated with some weak side help and proper defensive rotations (no Cook, please).

    Regarding offense, what I would like to see, besides pushing the ball on fast breaks more, is some variations. The triangle is a system with many options, but sometimes some playcalling is needed. Usinga smaller lineup of Odom and Turiaf at times, you can bring the two bigs outside in order to get them mid-range jumpers or getting more space for Kobe to slash… I know, I’m rambling, but the offense just seems too predictable right now… As it always has…

    PS: Hello regulars??? The fantasy league is up… Noone else wants to join?


  12. Renato Afonso,
    Ok! I will join your fantasy league. However, you will have to give me some kiddy wheels, as I have never ridden before.


  13. Guys, Fantasy Buffs…

    I will be setting up another league in’s fantasy bball if we gain enough members from FB&G. Kurt, if I may invite?…

    The league will be made up of 10 teams.
    Draft will be set on a live time so that everyone can participate. If we have a problem with the time element, the computer can auto-draft for you.
    Draft format is SNAKE DRAFT, where if you pick 1st in the 1st round, you pick last in the 2nd.
    The scoring will be Rotisserie or more famously known as Roto. The more balanced your team is, the better chance of winning.

    Please email me if you are interested… There is still plenty of time.

    Kurt, thanks for not making this disappear 🙂


  14. Not even one minute into this game, i freakin LOVE Turiaf. Seriously.



  15. The very first play was a sloppy bounce pass from Fish to Kwame… guess what, turnover.

    Second play had Kobe running the break and dishing to Ronny for a nice dunk!

    Third play was a case of poor rotation leading to deflections by Seattle. Kobe bails them out with a scoop shot.


  16. There goes Ronny’s weakness. 8:06 in the 1st – 2 fouls.

    1st one was a lazy loose ball foul on a rebound, second one one defending a break from Seattle.

    I must note 1 thing – Kobe loves passing to Ronny. Seriously, its quite obvious.


  17. Maybe Turiaf turns into the piece that can get the Lakers that third superstar that Kobe wants. The better he plays and the more positivity he shows, the harder it is to let him go in a trade. A good problem to have. I wish Kobe showed the same enthusiasm. Overall team attitude makes a difference on the court and in the attitude of the fans unless of course you are winning championships and then who cares.


  18. i’m crazy glad that turiaf and mihm, two players who looked like there wasn’t much room for them to contribute last year, look like they might become part of the longterm fold.

    Kobe’s sloppy as hell as a facilitator.

    I’d say the defense improved a tad, but to let freaking Seattle score 24 points in the first is still quite pitiful.


  19. I give up on Cook… Jeff Green posting him up. Wow!


  20. Heh. Cookie’s not my favorite favorite player either, but if Rodmanivic goes snowboarding again…


  21. The Halftime score stands at 47-64 LA. I do not think it is a good gauge on how good we have grown defensively since Seattle is clearly a team in disarray. However, I also see it as a morale-booster since Bynum is playing really well. If he plays like this night in and out, we may be in for a pleasant surprise.

    Ronny is playing VERY WELL, Farmar is quick to fight off the screens, Bynum looks leaner and more willing to dunk the ball. That’s definitely the right way to go. At this point, I am reserving my kudos to Craig for having faith on the young guy…


  22. What do people think of Durant, watching him play? I remember being really impressed by him in the Vegas prelim games that made it to TV. (I;m at work, not watching tonights game).


  23. Mihm on fire! Ready to dominate already!


  24. This is the first I’ve seen of the Lakers, and with a grain of salt, here are some quick observations.

    1. Farmar has gotten better. He is faster, and looks to be more decisive on offense and more comfortable pressuring the ball without fouling.

    2. Mihm will be able to contribute to the team this year

    3. Rony really should start at the 4. Maybe mostly because I liked the way the 2nd unit ran with Luke out there. Bynum was way more active, and thats a great sign.

    they dont look too bad. Fish is a very ineffective offensive player if hes not nailing open j’s, and kobe’s not an intiator, but with Mihm and Farmar in he lineup the offense ran smoother. Hope Phil is gonna make the right lineup decisions. that could be the differnce between 3-8 start or 7-4.


  25. This is the first game that I’ve seen [almost] all of. What struck me most was how, in the 4th quarter, Bynum really appeared to be conserving energy off the ball at the offensive end. He would pick it up if he had the ball or some decent position fell into his lap, but generally he was just standing around.

    On the defensive end, though, he really appeared to be working hard.

    I guess my reaction to this is that to the extent that Bynum is not able to give 100% effort 100% of the time at least he’s picking his battles well. Last year Bynum seemed to relax on defense so he could fight for position on offense, which is not a good strategy.



    For those of y’all that missed this…

    Bynum’s MONSTER stuff of Swift after out-boarding a few other Sonics, then channels the Diesel!


  27. what was kobe doing in the third quarter? that was absurd.


  28. Assorted thoughts:

    Let me join the Ronny love brigade. So thrilling to watch someone who is clearly having such a good time, and busting his butt. His fade in the first quarter looked niiice. I feel like he should be a cult favorite of every fan of the NBA.

    Farmar’s jumper looks improved. Bynum looked solid.

    The Sonics are going to be terrrrrible. Like historically bad I think. Jeff Green cannot score in the NBA. Durant will have his flashes, but he could average 30 a game and this team would still have trouble cracking 90.


  29. Oops, messed up my signature on the previous post. Sorry.


  30. I agree with Travis’ comment about Lamar. Without him, the Lakers will have some trouble pushing the ball. Right now the team is looking a bit sloppy with the new, faster paced offense, but we need to have some faith. This, for lack of a better term, “running triangle” is a logical progression. The Lakers have a few clear advantages that have not been effectively exploited by a half-court set offense. Specifically, we have very quick and athletic big men who can beat their defenders down the court. If our boys could get some easy baskets, it would allow Kobe to focus more on defense and open up the floor for our outside shooters (Vlad, Cook, Sasha… any one of whom can get on a monumental roll when they have open looks).


  31. I must say that apart from it being a win, the Lakers showed up for work today. I’ve noticed the pace on offense has gotten quicker and that Farmar thrived on this offense dishing out 7 dimes in the limited time he saw action. I also noticed how his stroke has gotten better. Since Seattle is not a PG-talented team, the Lakers were not that much challenged in the guard play. Seattle basically played forwards all game with the exception of either Ridnour or Watson.

    I love how Bynum yielded 19pts and 10rebs. I am almost a fan already yet this team is still without Odom. If only he can do it CONSISTENTLY, a lot of fire could be doused by the Laker team play. I also agree that the offense runs smoothly with Walton leading the 2nd unit. His stats might not show for it this year but he will be an integral part of this team – off the bench.

    Forward thoughts:
    When Odom comes back, I hope he does the facilitating. Kobe is better off being the threat on offense and Lamar can create while dribbling the ball. The difference this year might be the improved shooting of the members – Radmanovic, Kobe and Fisher all can shoot the lights out.


  32. **Recap**

    Player of the Game – Farmar. His stat lines don’t line. He also caused several turnovers where he did not receive the steal. He came out pumped and ready to play.

    Would love to see Bynum play like this against Yao and other starters.

    After the Lakers time out in the 2nd quarter, I think somebody told Cook he was going to get cut if he didn’t pick his game up. Cook looked very comfortable in the run & gun triangle. Reminded me of his college days. He still needs to be more aggressive on defense and let players know they cannot dribble around him for an easy lay-up.

    Mihm looked horrible on defense, but provided a good offensive spark.

    Fisher looked a little sloppy. He needs to improve his overall game and remember how to play the triangle to keep his starting role.

    Turiaf looked very dominant in that 1st quarter. Good to see.


  33. Warren,

    I agree that Odom would be a better facilitattor than Kobe. However, with the NBA’s new defensive rules, a man can be doubled without the ball. This is exactly what the better defensive teams like the Pistons will do with Kobe, effectively denying the ball from our primary offensive threat. With Jordan, Pippen could be the faciltator, because Jordan would get the ball, even if a double or triple might come once he received it.


  34. Paul ,
    Good point, however, Kobe is very, very good at moving without the ball – it’s just that he has had it most of the time the last 3yrs. He can get people in foul trouble because he is always moving and this will free up our other players for easy shots and rebounds.

    Lamar is too good at passing and Kobe requires all-stars at the other end of his passes. Either that or he is proving a point by passing into traffic and trying for the spectacular feed.


  35. The lakers will operate better with Odom faciltating than Kobe faciltitating. The one consequence of that is Odom’s ppg will not be above 16-17 per game. This isn’t a bad thing, but Laker fans seem to want LO to reach that pretty number of 20 ppg. If Odom is the initator he will attack less, which is counter to what the staff has said they wanted of Odom during the offseason. Hopefully the team will start Farmar, therefore allowing him to initate and Odom and Kobe to both be attacking players.


  36. Also, maybe its just cause I have a soft spot for him, but Sasha’s 33 pts in 51 mins, as well as his knoweldge of the offense and aggresive attitude at the 2, has me thinking he should get a shot at some of the backup minutes behind kobe, espeacially when “cold mo” appears.


  37. Ready for a clearly biased opinion that I don’t expect most of you to share? I think that for a majority of last night’s game we looked like a 52 win team. A 52 win team that is clearly in the pre-season, but a 52 win team none the less.

    And I love Bynum’s line.


  38. I think we could win 60+ if we played all our games against the Sonics.