Archives For October 2007

NBA Preseason: Lakers vs. Kings

Kurt —  October 26, 2007

While I’ve been out in front leading the “it’s just the preseason” parade, the consistently poor performances of the Lakers in the last several weeks combined with the consistent spat of injuries is disconcerting. Especially since the first three weeks of the season are loaded with good teams where the Lakers will have to play well just to be near .500.

I had hoped that tonight, the final preseason game (against the Kings), we would see some normal rotations and a team that looked ready for the season, but that is not to be the case. No Kobe (wrist injury), no Lamar. So, we can watch tonight and see what the Lakers’ second unit looks like against a team with some talent (but stuck in limbo). However, in the grand scheme, this game will show us little and mean less — seeing how Bynum and Kwame play will be the most interesting thing.

All that leaves me with some trepidation heading into the regular season next Tuesday — have we even seen five good minutes out of what will be the starting lineup for the Lakers against Houston? It’s just the preseason, where the games are virtually meaningless and lineup experimentation is the norm, but consistent poor play still has me uneasy.

As for tonight….

I saw the Kings in person against the Clippers Wednesday night, although I’ll admit that because of the day’s events for me I wasn’t laser focused. That said, here’s what I saw:

Mike Bibby was in midseason form, torching the Clipper point guards all night. Granted, the existing Clipper ones are not really known for their defense, but Bibby looks ready and will be a good test for Fisher and Farmar.

Kevin Martin had an off night, but I don’t expect that to mean much because he’s too good. Francisco Garcia had an off night and I’m questioning if that is part of a larger trend.

Brad Miller is past his prime and Kwame/Bynum should be able to take it too him down on the block (Kaman did a couple times). And I thought Mikki Moore would bring more of a presence to this team along the baseline than I saw — and I guess I wasn’t alone as Reggie Theus announced that Kenny Thomas would start the season for the Kings at the four and Moore will come off the bench.

John Salmons looked better than I remember him being, and some Kings fans said it was an off night for him.

Not much else to add here, and not sure there is much we will be able to take away from this game when its over.

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Finally, the last installment of the Fesivus of the NBA, focused on the Pacific. And the wise Tom Ziller looks smart in our eyes because he agrees with what we’ve said since the trade was made:

it wasn’t the Shaq trade which sent Los Angeles into the void — it was the Caron Butler trade. Really, I’m shocked that one didn’t work out.

And here’s a song about telling Buss that he needs to keep Kobe that is worth a listen.

Thank You

Kurt —  October 25, 2007

Today is one of the few days this blog goes off-topic.

At the end of the day, all I could think to say was “thank you.”

It seemed woefully inadequate, but it’s all I could come up with.

Yesterday I spend the day with the men of a fire strike force — men asked to go in and protect homes and other buildings with flames bearing down on then in this rash the Southern California wildfires. The team was made up of five engines — two from Long Beach and one each from Sante Fe Springs, Vernon and Downey — with a total of 22 men, all who had been Malibu for three days before I caught up with them at the base camp for the Santiago fire in Orange County.
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It was amazing that after four days of breathing in smoke, have fires race up hills to where they were protecting a home, having glowing embers blow down their shirts, and having moments where they questioned both their sanity and their mortality, when the guys were talking about their experiences they casually throw in words like “play” and “fun.”

Oh, they were all business. This was no game. One guy described Malibu to me as “a scene out of Hades, the ground a carpet of embers”

But this was also what they love to do. And it showed.

Maybe the most amazing thing was that after four days of entering situations that were at times bordering on hopeless, their spirits were very high. When I caught up to them it was right after the first good night’s sleep in 72 hours (a whopping six hours on a cot outdoors) they were eager to get back into it. The breakfasts were welcomed, as were some clean clothes and baby wipes that would have to do for showers, but it was clear that standing around they felt like a player on the sidelines.

I followed them up to a staging area in the hills, where at times you could see the flames and could always see (and breathe in) plumes of smoke. These guys were experts in reading wind — knowing that a plume going straight up was a bad sign because a smoky energy cloud was forming that was going to come down at some point.

But this — like all major operations — was a case of hurry up and wait. Waiting for the wind to shift, and therefore waiting hours before the commanders knew where to send them, what houses to save. And waiting was no fun for them.

But like soldiers fresh from a battle they were quick to exchange their stories of the last few days. Of how hard it is to breathe when a dry eucalyptus tree virtually explodes right in front of you. Of standing in a shower of embers from a guesthouse they were unable to save and wondering if the main home – with ice plant at least protecting one side – could be saved.

It could. But really, my words are a poor expression of what these guys went through and did – of the respect and honor these firefighters and the thousands like them deserve. So I’ll just leave you with a few of their quotes.

“We realize it’s someone’s house, just like it would be my house, so you’ll work 110% to save it.”

“You go and go and then maybe you can catch a few hours of rest, the somebody gives you an assignment and you get jacked up again and you want to get right back up there.”

“We were in Malibu for three days and that first day was really rough. We were on top of a roof and it was just so black you couldn’t see and it was hard to breathe, but you do what you’ve got to do.”

“After those first days we came back to camp and our eyes were just bulging and red.”

“But when you get back here you forget a little bit about what it was like at that moment. We just want to get back in there.”

They did get back in, sent into the deep recesses of a wooded canyon to protect some homes. Today they may get some rest, but they also expect to be moving on to San Diego by the end of today. To get in the middle of some more fires.

Gentlemen, we all thank you.
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First — I hope that the ongoing wildfires have not displaced (or worse) any of you. It is my sincerest wish that each of you and your families are safe.

Now, on to the distractions…

Kobe has a shorter drive to the arena tonight and there is a championship banner hanging in the rafters, but nobody is going to confuse the Anaheim Pond (sorry Honda, it will always be that to me) with the Staples Center.

Tonight’s tedious preseason match up should be interesting on a few levels. I’d expect to see more of a “regular” rotation from the Lakers — whatever that will be exactly — at least for the first half, as Phil starts to look more toward the season.

The rotations we really need to see from the starters and core players are on defense — they have been better at times this preseason (compared to the nonexistent ones last year) but the performance has been inconsistent across the numerous player groupings. The players are talking a good game, but actions are what we need to see.

For the Jazz, Ronnie Brewer is trying to earn the starting two-guard spot, and leads Utah in the preseason with 17 ppg while shooting 60% from the floor. So what is worrying Jerry Sloan? Brewer’s defense. Remember last year Brewer started against the Lakers and Kobe put up 52. Look for Brewer to try to make a point tonight, and for Kobe to be a little more focused.

But the best part of tonight should be the banging inside, with this game having harder hits than anything Deon Sanders ever did in the NFL.

We know the Jazz — with a front line of Okur, Boozer and AK47, plus Millsap coming off the bench — can bang, but the Lakers new front line with Turiaf and Kwame (and, eventually, Odom) are no slouches themselves. Don’t take my word for it, this quote is out of True Hoop, from a Bobcat fan reader of Henry’s:

The Lakers are a lot tougher and more physical this year than last season. It’s more than just Kobe now. Kwame Brown knocked Primoz Brezec on his back, laid the ball in, and you could hear him yell ‘Ay! Get tough!’ Ronny Turiaf was downright nasty. He was literally pushing Walter Herrmann off of him on both sides of the floor.

As for injuries, Odom is out for sure for the Lakers (although he is going to try to play the final preseason game on Friday in Vegas) and Walton is questionable. Harpring will sit for the Jazz. And we can all hope nobody goes down in this game like Morrison did against the Lakers.

UPDATE: Elton Brown, Andre Patterson and Larry Turner have been waived by the team. No shock there, the only question now is if Coby Karl gets the 15th roster spot or if it stays open.

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One little housekeeping note. As has been the tradition here, I’ll be doing previews and setting up comment threads for every Lakers game (with a breakdown of what the Lakers have been doing as well as info on the opponent). I’m trying to come up with my format for said previews, so if there is anything you want to see in there — point spreads, starting lineups, list of celebrities expected to sit courtside — send me an email or put it in the comments. Or, really, if you have other suggestions of things you want to see, put those in too. FB&G has become a community, so I want everyone to be a part of the process.

Slow Down

Kurt —  October 22, 2007

Kobe can’t be the facilitator, he turns the ball over too much. Farmar should start, and so should Bynum. This Lakers team defense isn’t any better than last year’s. Mihm isn’t ready.

You know what five preseason games equal? A pile of male bovine animal manure. While we are learning some things, the context in which we are learning them makes it very difficult to extrapolate these results into anything meaningful.

Let’s use Kobe in the facilitator role as an example. After watching the two games from this weekend, it is pretty clear he is not fully comfortable in that role with this lineup (remember he played this role a lot in the Shaq era). But to say he can’t do it and this plan should be abandoned ignores a lot of factors: 1) Lamar Odom is the only other starter who can create his own shot and Odom is wearing some pricy street clothes to the games, so the defenses are totally focused and collapsing on Kobe; 2) The lineups Kobe is playing with are experimental; 3) Just like Phil, he’s testing things out to see what works and what doesn’t, who he can trust and who he can’t. For example, I’m not sure we’ll be seeing a lot more lobs to Kwame. That list can go on, the point is not to make huge leaps yet — Kobe is struggling some, but that is what preseason is for.

Another example, there is no doubt that both Farmar and Bynum have looked good and have shown growth, both physically and in the diversity in their games. But that does not mean they should start. First off, as we said before, the lineups they are playing with and against are still too fluid to say they perform better with the starters or the bench guys. Also, look at it this way — both Farmar and Bynum have shown a broadened offensive game from last year, would that be better coming off the bench? With Kobe and Odom in the starting five, that unit will score, regardless of who is playing center. Maybe it’s better to have the more defensive-minded Kwame/Turiaf combo at the four and five to start, and bring the scoring punch of Bynum and Farmar off the bench (with Walton and Radmanovic).

All I’m trying to say here people is, deep breaths. This is the preseason.

On to other notes:

• I’d love to have Al Thorton coming off our bench, I like his game. Be warned, you may get some more Clippers comments later in the week as I have tickets to the Clippers/Kings preseason game at Staples Wednesday.

• This is why I don’t think the Suns get out of the second round again this year.

• Call them Gretzky’s or whatever, but I like the idea of counting a second assist in some cases. If Kobe drives the lane and kicks out to an open Fisher who makes a quick pass around the arc to Radmanovic for a wide open three, shouldn’t Kobe (or whomever) get some credit for starting that play? That said, it’s a judgment call thing to me, there are second assists that are meaningless (both in hockey and basketball).

• Is the LA Times borrowing ideas from bloggers?

NBA Bloggers Previews: The Northwest

Kurt —  October 22, 2007

Now the previews are up for the NBA bloggers who covered what is the up-and-coming division of the NBA, the Northwest.

Utah Jazz
Daily Basketball
Taking it to the Rack
Basketball John

Seattle Supersonics
Sonics Central

Portland Trail Blazers
TrueHoop
The Inferno

Timberwolves
TWolves Blog

Denver Nuggets
Nugg Doctor