Archives For October 2007

Lakers vs. Clippers Preseason

Kurt —  October 21, 2007

I haven’t watched the recording of the game against the Bobcats yet, so here are some thoughts from some commenters:

I only saw the 2nd half tonite, but I did like what I saw about both the offense and the switching defense. I realize I can’t take the preseason games too seriously, but I do like our young lions so far.

—Craig W.

For the first time this season, the Lakers were successfully doing everything they promsed to change on offense and defense. Even in preseason, when you win by twenty and thirty on succeeding nights, chemistry improves–and the players have fun….The Lakers intimidated the Bobs with sheer size and inventive playground assists. Javaris may have stolen the show with a drive to the basket and last second behind the back to Andrew, who caught it and slammed it home. Kobe was clearly having fun on the bench–laughing and joking.
—Drrayeye

Hopefully the good play continues tonight. For the Clippers, rookie Al Thorton is averaging nearly 18 and 6, shhoting 51.3% (eFG%) while Corry Maggette is trying to pick up some of the scoring slack with Brand out, and while he’s averging nearly 17 a game he is shooting just 38.3% in the preseason. Also, going against Kaman should be a good test for our bigs.

Lakers vs. Bobcats Preseason

Kurt —  October 20, 2007

A new thread for the first of two preseason games in two nights at Staples. The Bobcats are playing Wallace (30 min a game) and Richardson (26 min a game) a lot in the preseason, clearly trying to get them used to playing together. Should be a good defensive test for the Lakers.

Bakersfield Thoughts

Kurt —  October 19, 2007

Lots of thoughts out of last night’s Lakers win in Bakersfield, both from myself and many of you in the comments. So here’s a mix of thoughts from last night. (If you want to read more about the Kobe/Buss/Jackson saga, Mark Heisler from the LA Times actually emailed a blogger with his thoughts, and they are interesting.)

• The first nine minutes showed just how much this team misses Odom. Debate whether he or Kobe should facilitate (as you all did), without a second legit scoring threat, the Sonics essentially dared anyone else but Kobe to beat them (amongst the other starters of Kwame, Turiaf, Radman and Fisher). There were a couple of nice interior passing plays that led to scores, but also some slop and some shots well outside the offense. Odom would balance things better by being a quality second option. Travis Y. had similar thoughts:

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!

The Lakers also miss Odom on the boards. With 6:30 left in the first quarter Chris Wilcox got an offensive rebound and tip in because he had little trouble getting position on Radmanovic. Odom is a lot stronger on thee glass than Vladrad.

• The Lakers look more comfortable with the faster pace.

• The Ronny Turiaf love brigade was out in full force among Lakers fans. From Carter Blanchard:

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.

Count me in. Ronny Turiaf runs the floor, hustles on the boards, cuts to the glass on offense, passes well in traffic, works on defense and just generally gives the team energy. He showed an impressive 10-foot baseline fadaway. He played good post defense and drew a nice charge on Wilcox in the first quarter.

But in a regular season game he would have negated much of that with two fouls in the first four minutes — one of which was a foul you’d expect to get (Watson driving into him on a fast break) but the other was a silly foul near the basket after he got beat for position. With 8 minutes to go in the first quarter he would have been on the bench for the rest of it, missing a time he made a lot of nice plays. I think he needs to start, but if he keeps fouling at this pace he’ll be coming off the bench again.

• A thought from kwame a.:

Ronny 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 that’s a great sign.

The last couple of games, we have seen the Lakers bench outplaying the bench of their opponents — this is something that could carry over to the season. Granted, Seattle is not a deep team, but the Lakers have a nice second unit (Farmar, Evans, Walton, Radmanovic and Bynum) that can outplay a lot of other second units in the league. This is something the Lakers can establish.

• Kevin Durant is smooth, I was thinking George Gervin smooth in flashes. And he’s fearless about shooting, to the point you have to question his shot selection. He has not totally figured out how to create his own shot at this level, and that is leading to a lot of contested shots. But you can see a lot of talent, a whole lot.

• All three Lakers centers had a quality game (although I thought Mihm had some defensive lapses in the third). Competition is a good thing — let them push each other for playing time.

• Jordan Farmar also had his best game of the preseason — 81 Witness called him the player of the game. He shot 4 of 5 from the field, 2 of 2 from three, made some smart passes (seven assists, including a sweet no-look on the break) and played solid defense. He also learned a little from Steve Nash — he’s not driving the lane and leaving his feet, he’s holding his dribble and if nothing develops he goes back out and sets up the offense.

• The Sonics looked ragged, but they still shot 51.7% for the game. The Lakers did forced 18 turnovers, which helped with pace. Not sure we can read much into the team’s defense out of this one.

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.

Looking Past The Distractions

Kurt —  October 16, 2007

Man, this could be a long year for Lakers fans. Especially if Tuesday was any indication, where rumors about what was in Kobe’s locker became a mini-Chernobyl in Lakerland.

The question I have is can this Lakers team look past the ongoing media distraction and still succeed on the court?

Some teams rally around each other and become a force when they perceive that an outside force is attacking them (see the New England Patriots of 2007). Other teams simply become unglued in the heat of the media spotlight.

It’s clear that until the Lakers make a big move — sending Kobe out or bringing in talent to make this team a contender — that there will be a seemingly endless loop of ESPN.com roundtables, “Loose Cannons” more than living up to their moniker on talk radio, and much more. Every rumor — valid or not — is going to be handled with a Paris Hilton sense of perspective.

The question is can the Lakers be professional and not let it impact their play on the court? In a large part that falls on Kobe, who is too professional and too competitive to go Vince Carter on this team and not put out the effort, but he also must provide locker room leadership to minimize the distraction. Responsibility also falls to Phil Jackson, a veteran like Derek Fisher, and eventually on each player to do their part to keep a cohesive team.

Just like questions that will be easier to see on the court — like which center is earning playing time — the answer to this is something we will have to see play out. And unlike the things we can see more clearly with observation and statistics, we may never really get a full answer to the question of how much this impacts the team.

I can just hope the team — and we fans for that matter — can look past the soap opera distractions.

UPDATE: In case you haven’t seen it, Roland Lazenby offered his thoughts on this latest Laker drama in an email to Henry at True Hoop, comparing the Buss family to a Shakespearean drama, but reminding everyone Buss still knows how to play the game. He notes Phil tried to set up his pieces against the owner and front office as he did in Chicago, but Buss has played a lot more poker than those guys:

Phil had primed the pump this time by getting his pal Sam Smith at the Chicago Tribune to write a column saying Kobe ought to sit out the season. Jerry Buss could see the play coming. So the owner walked into training camp and knocked Kobe almost unconscious. We’ll trade your ass and put it on the table now, Jerry Buss told Kobe in so many words.

Phil was left gulping, Kobe speechless.

Phil has finally met his match in those juicy PR games that sell newspapers and books. Question is, do Phil/Kobe/Jeanie have another move? Or are they done, left slinking away sheepishly?

Phil wants another championship and he wants Jim Buss out of the way so that he can do it. It was Jim Buss, supposedly, who talked his father Jerry in firing Phil in 2004, so this thing has a history.

You have to read the whole thing. Thanks to Gatinho for the heads up.

UPDATE 2: Friend of this site Nate Jones has a great post up at Fanhouse titled “Staying Rational About Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant is too box office for the Lakers to move without some sort of fight. He’s not only valuable to Jerry Buss, but to AEG, the company that owns 30% of the Lakers and all of Staples Center. They’ve been able to completely develop downtown L.A. and a lot of these properties depend on the Lakers success. Buss knows this. Dude’s been doing this for too long to let the most box office player in the league go over unhappiness. Magic Johnson asked to be traded in the early 1980s, but Buss never let the guy go. He made things right.

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A few other links to pass along in the easy in the dreaded bullet point format.

• Now this is just damn funny (aren’t most things involving Agent Zero).

• I’m a little late to this party but still wanted to mention it. Recently baseball stats demi-god Bill James weighed in on what is needed to “fix” other sports, including the NBA. His main problem with The Association — the best team always wins. See, in the summer-long 162 game baseball season the best teams do rise to the top, but then come the playoffs and it’s a crapshoot (see Rockies, Colorado). James thinks that a certain amount of unpredictability is great.

Personally, I’m with the guys at The Painted Area who said, “Isn’t the best team winning the point?” I like that about the NBA, or for that matter about the English Premiership. Across the pond there are no playoffs for the league title, just the winner of the season (there are plenty of tournaments, but all for separate trophies, none of which my lads from Newcastle ever win). I love the volatility of the NCAA Tournament as well, but for a pro league isn’t the point to have the best team as your champion? Read The Painted Area response, they go into depth and say it well.

• Interesting little note for those following UCLA basketball: Star freshman Kevin Love will be wearing number 42 (the same number he wore in high school). Yes, that number is retired and hanging in the rafters at Pauley Pavilion, but Walt Hazard gave his permission to Love to wear the number.