Game Preview & Chat: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  November 25, 2007

Records: Lakers 7-5; Nets 6-7
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.4 (6th); Nets 96.2 (29th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (15th); Nets 104.4 (11)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Andrew Bynum
Nets: Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter, Malik Allen, Jason Collins

Lakers Notes: This year’s Lakers team is off to a good start, but it has played two teams playing at an elite level early — San Antonio and Boston. For all the Lakers are doing right — and there is a lot — consider what happened Friday night a reminder that this team is not at “title contender” status and what that status looks like. Credit to Boston in that game, they’re aggressive defense threw Bynum and Odom and others into a funk. (For the game, the Lakers had an offensive rating of 101, 10 points per 100 possessions off their season average, and they shot 48% (eFG%), well off the 51.2% they are shooting for the season. The Celtics offense was slightly above its season numbers, three points per 100 possessions. And thanks to Rob L. for the stats.)

The question is, can the Lakers put that behind them and get back to doing what won them games?

The Nets Coming In: The Nets are a lot stronger when all three of their best perimeter players are in the game — and Vince Carter missed several games during a recent losing streak. He came back the team’s last game, played 34 minutes and the Nets got the win (against Seattle)

Jefferson is thriving with Kidd feeding him the ball, scoring 25 points per 40 minutes, 10th in the league, and he is using a quarter of the Net’s possessions when on the floor. (For the record, Kobe is second in the league at 29 points per 40, trailing only some guy named LeBron.) Jefferson is getting to the line a lot this season — the Lakers need to not foul him.

Jason Kidd is, well, Jason Kidd. He’s not shooting great (41.8% eFG%) but 39.3% of his possessions end in an assist (third best in the league). Then there is the enigmatic Vince Carter, who is shooting 46% and has a PER of 15 (right at the league average). He may not be playing well, but ignore him at your own peril.

The Nets don’t have much beyond the big three, in part because Krstic is out with an injury. The one guy to watch for is Sean Williams, the Boston College rookie that was popular with this board prior to the last draft. He is shooting 62.5% and is averaging 4.4 blocks per 40 minutes. But, he also has been a turnover machine.

Chise meets Kobe: In case you missed this, commenter Chise went to the game in Boston then was in an IHOP at 3 a.m. (I’m not going to ask why) where he ran into Kobe Bryant.

The highlight of the night came at 3 AM when I got to meet Kobe Bryant himself at the IHOP. Kobe was there eating pancakes at 3 AM all decked out in a suit and tie. Despite what people say, he’s a really cool guy. A lot of people were going up to him and getting autographs, pics, etc. He seemed to love it. We let him finish eating before we went up to see him. I shook his hand, told him he was the best, and wished him luck on the season. He was pretty cool even though a ridiculous amount of people kept going up to him. He was actually there for awhile too. I wish I had my camera though.

I was there with 4 friends from Boston and a friend of mine from home in Connecticut and they told me they were surprised he was so nice/cool. They had all figured he was a prick given what is said about him in the media. From what some people were saying, Kobe even paid the bill for like 5 tables or so of people that were sitting near his table. He just seemed like a real down to earth humble person.

It was crazy though because I have been a fan of Kobe’s since he first came into the league. I was about 13 then and now I’m 25, so I’ve got the jerseys, sneakers, etc. And it was so out of nowhere. Like, we came out of the bathroom and looked to the left and he was just sitting there. Can’t believe we passed right by his table and didn’t even realize he was there at first. And he was mad polite too. When I first shook his hand, you know, I told him he was my favorite player and the best in the league. He thanked me and I wished him good luck for the season and he said he thanks again and that he appreciated it. Just real humble, down to earth. Even if he was thinking to himself “I know I’m the best” or whatever, he didn’t act like a self-absorbed celebrity.

Keys To The Game: This is going to be quick, there are two big keys as I see it. One is perimeter defense, the Lakers have been sluggish there this season and they can’t be tonight, the Nets run out three good perimeter players. The Lakers have to play better man-on-man, be crisper with their rotations and the bigs have to show and recover better on the pick and roll.

Second, the Lakers should be able to pound the Nets inside and get to the rim, Bynum needs to bounce back.

And as a third bonus thing (at no extra charge), this is a game where the Lakers bench should again dominate.

Tonight’s Game: Where Chick Hearn Night Happens: Back home and smarting from that embarrassment in Boston, I look for the Lakers to get a comfortable win. If they can focus on containing the Nets on the perimeter and not let this be a shootout. The Nets have been horrible on offense, but they have weapons that will beat you if you are sloppy.

The Lakers had better not lose on Chick Hearn night, that would piss me off.

Where you can watch: Game time is 6:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports.