And One For The Road

Kurt —  December 17, 2007

That was a great confidence-boosting, comfortable win for a team heading off on a four-game road trip. To be sure, the Clippers played poor defense on the perimeter (Kobe in the first and Sasha in the fourth got Clips to bite on fakes and that made their shots easier, the Clips rotations and coverage at the three point line was weak) but credit to the Lakers for taking advantage of it. One key sign that the Lakers players better understand the triangle this season is just how much better the spacing has been, and that was a key last night. Clipperblog talks about this (and also breaks down Maggette’s tremendous effort).

Then there was another step in the emergence of Andrew Bynum, who is learning to use his length to bother other centers. His confidence grows each game, and with it his game grows exponentially. His presence inside also helps with the aforementioned spacing.

So the Lakers head off on a four-game East Coast swing, all in big cities (is there a better place to finish off your Christmas shopping than Manhattan?) and all against teams under .500. There also are some good teams in there — Chicago is loaded with talent and Cleveland won the East last year. With Kobe heading to Chicago and New York, the under/over on stories that say “Kobe is happy now” or muckraking columnists that say “Kobe still wants out” this week is about 350. We’ll ignore those and focus on the big question:

How many games should the Lakers win on this trip?

Kurt

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82 responses to And One For The Road

  1. For the record, I say the Lakers should be 3-1, but if it’s 2-2 I can live with that.

    Sorry for the short post, I’m off to Disneyland with the family today.

  2. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom December 17, 2007 at 10:59 am

    all 4!!!! but i’ll be happy with 3-1

  3. Ideally the Lakers will go 4-0 on this swing, but having them do a 3-1 trip isn’t bad.

    Philly and New York should be blow out wins, and Cleveland isn’t the team that won the east last year anymore. They haven’t gelled yet, and here’s hoping they don’t before Thursday.

    Chicago could pose problems, but who’s gonna guard Bynum? Wallace isn’t the defensive stopper he was, and he’s giving up a lot in height and length….I expect Bynum to go for high doubles in points and rebounds….somewhere around 20/20 would be nice.

  4. 4-0 – I see Philly being the toughest game of the trip.

  5. 4-0

    Bulls threaten, but can’t keep pace with our “other” guys.

    Philly, I concur, will be our biggest challenge, as Miller is playing great these days.

    Cleveland provides a formidable battle, but James exits with a loss and a disgruntled attitude.

    Kobe licks his lips for the garden… ’nuff said.

  6. while i am delighted to see bynum off to a terrific start, i think i share the same sentiment as PJ on his conditioning part. I don’t know how much he has improved on that aspect, but last year, he also did have a great start (not as good as this year’s), but fizzled away towards the second half of the season.

    I’m just hoping and praying that he’s somewhat adjusted to the NBA schedule and workload and will continue to keep playing at this level (or improve even more!).

  7. I would guess Phil would put the mark at 3.

    Philly and New York should be beat, and a loss to Cleveland or Chicago wouldn’t be the end of the world.

  8. I think the Lakers should go 3-1. Cleveland could be tough. If Hughes is healthy (does he have another injury yet) he can put up numbers and they do have this guy name James or something, who was almost putting Oscar Roberston numbers. They aren’t as good as they were last year (or maybe they are and the competition is just better) but it coudl still be a difficult game. Chicago has been playing better lately so that could be a tough game but the Lakers should get a W there. I think 3-1 will be good because the next 3 games will be tough. I’ll be very happy with 5-2 over the next 7 games.

    This is interesting Hollinger’s playoff predictor has the Lakers as 2nd in the West with their average predicted record being 52-30 tied with PHX.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds

  9. Kwame Brown Still Not Ready
    =================
    Source: Los Angeles Times

    Christmas isn’t coming early for Kwame Brown.

    He was supposed to travel on the Lakers’ upcoming four-game trip, but Coach Phil Jackson decided against it because Brown “couldn’t get on the floor and practice with us yet.” Brown began rattling off one-liners as soon as reporters told him what Jackson said Sunday.

    “I’ll inbound the ball,” he said. “Just let me go.”

    He has been trying to recover from injuries and boredom since Chicago center Ben Wallace tumbled into his left knee and ankle on Nov. 18. He has missed 14 games with moderate sprains and was acerbic when told he would apparently be skipping another trip — which also meant more one-on-one workout time with athletic performance director Chip Schaefer.

    “Usually Chip stays back and works out the guys . . . but you don’t want to stay back with Chip. It’s no fun,” Brown said, smiling. “Whatever part of your body that’s not hurting, you will work it.”

    Brown has been able to run in a straight line but has had trouble cutting and stopping quickly.

  10. Kurt, you do not want to be shopping in NYC right now. I just got back to my place (Upper West Side) and it was soooo damned cold out! Plus, 34th street is crazy with people trying to walk on top of you and no available cabs to be found anywhere. Can’t wait to get back to good ol’ Riverside County for winter break.

    Bynum needs more touches in order to be anything more than the grab-the-alley-and-dunk guy, and honestly I think Lamar needs to make up for his terrible offense by getting points through Bynum – God I cringe any time LO shoots… I swear it pisses me off.

  11. 6) “Brown has been able to run in a straight line”

    Great; that’s a skill he didn’t demonstrate very often before the injury!!

  12. Advice for Lamar. Don’t shoot threes, ever! Practice, practice practice those mid range jumpers and free throws.

  13. Since I’m still hesitant to put the Lakers in the top tier of teams, I’m going with 2-2 as a good road trip.

    If they can play .500 on the road and handle their business at home, it should be a solid year.

    I have to say, I didn’t expect the Lakers to have the kind of confidence they do. It’s kind of a variable I didn’t have in my equation. Since I’m a firm believer in confidence and team chemistry determining a good amount of wins per season, this team could surprise someone.

  14. (5.) I watched nearly ever game last year, and I’ve watched every game this season. Bynum’s conditioning and overall strength is light years ahead of last year. It really isn’t even close–like two different people. He is MUCH further along than at any point last year. His explosion is outstanding and his reaction to the ball is improving every game. Injuries notwithstanding, I fully expect Bynum to get better as the season progresses, not worse.

  15. Without Bynum and forcing Kobe and Turiaf to play through injuries, I think 3-1 would be an optimal record for this short road trip.

    I hope jackson gives Ariza some minutes against LeBron. Would be interesting to see how well Ariza plays against him. I wouldn’t mind him starting Ariza in that game.

    Also, as Turiaf gets healthier, maybe he can take the back-up center spot over Mihm.

    Anybody else foresee, Jackson hosting a fire sale on Mihm in January?

  16. I’m going to predict 3 and 1, with the lone loss coming from the Knicks, (I know, call me crazy) but for the same reason every one says above, it will be easy to take getting a W for granted in NY. especially if they win the first 3, because remember, NY is having a seriously terrible season, so all they can do now is try to have some memorable games…like beating the Lakers…this would “Make” their season. it’s one of the few opportunities for them to shine, so be careful Lakers, go out on the road, play hard, beat them all, and don’t overlook those lowly Knicks.

  17. the other Stephen December 17, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    watching bynum hammer down those one-handed alley-oop dunks is heavenly. so dudes who watched the game: why’d luke do so well?

  18. 2-2 on the trip. Expecting more is really unrealistic.

  19. in the past the Lakers have stunk against these supposed mediocre teams. if they can go 3-1, i think that is a huge improvement. of course, if they really want to challenge the big boys, 4-0 is what a good team would do with that schedule.

  20. 17 – Like Kurt said in the post, the Clips didn’t defend the 3 well enough. Luke hit his first and the rest is history.

    18 – Why? The Lakers are clearly better than all of the teams. I can’t see why the Lakers win one of the Cavs/Sixers. The Cavs are better than their record indicates as LeBron is back. The Lakers are 2-3 in back-to-backs with loses to the Bucks (!!!!), Utah and Golden State, so losing in Philly wouldn’t shock me. But the Lakers really SHOULD win both of them.

  21. Chris Mihm is not only a decent backup, but he is cheap. I suspect if anyone gets traded – with the way Andrew is playing – it would be Kwame, not Chris.

  22. If trading Kwame’s expiring pact brings back a legitimate addition that helps with defense, then fine. Regardless of whether it is a re-signing or a FA signing (if he gets traded), I am still in favor of signing Kwame at the end of the season to a mid-level-ish deal and using him at both the 4 and 5. Let’s face it, his post D has been pretty good and any offense out of him is just an added bonus. He definitely makes us better defensively though.

  23. Almost forgot…I am cautiously predicting 4-0 on this trip for the Lakers only because there isn’t a game in this stretch that they should lose.

    That said, I’ll take a 3-1 trip.

  24. 3-1. The Cleveland game being the unknown. Isn’t Verajao back as well as Hughes?

  25. I second what weston said in 19. I think that’s exactly the case. A good team would buckle down, focus, execute, and do 4-0. We’ll see.

  26. Should go 4-0, given the quality of the opponents.

    Will go 3-1, given the inconsistency this team has shown all year.

    Could go 2-2, given the 1st game is 3 hours time different from home, the Philly game is on the 2nd night of a back to back, and the NY game is at 9am local time (hopefully they’ve adjusted to the time zone a week into the trip).

    How is the Lakers/Celtics game not on national tv?

  27. I can see the Lakers going 2-2 during the trip. The fact that they play three games in four nights at the end of the trip will pose problems for a young team on the trip. The toughest games on the trip will probably be the Bulls and Cavs but the Knicks play well at home too despite their record. I would like to see a 3-1 trip to hold up some ground in the West especially with Dallas starting off slow. It would be good to also have some momentum going into a tough stretch at the end of the month against the Suns, Jazz and Celtics …..

  28. 13. The past few games I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that this team can do a lot better than .500 on the road.

    Not sure yet. Watch them go 1-3 this week.

  29. 3-1 would be my expectation. Lake Show should win in Chicago, albeit a well contested game. The Bulls are not playing up to par and the Lakers have some momentum, aside from the match problems bynum, odom and of course Kobe present. I think the one loss on the trip may come from the front end or the back end of back to back. While LeBron is back, the Lakers seem to be playing better overall. I see the Lakers getting pumped up to play Cavs. Either they beat the Cavs and have a let down the next night or they lose and refocus on Philly the next.

    Further, I do think if the Lakers really want to live up to the greater expectactions and the Hollinger rankings they are getting, a 2-2 trip would be a disappointment. 3-1 I consider businesslike and staying within expectations and 4-0 exceeding expectations and providing a hint of moving to the next phase and echelon in the WesterConference hierarchy.

  30. Mike in the Mountain West December 17, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    I just want to give some props to Sasha. He’s really uped his game this year. Even though he’s playing almost the exact same number of minutes as he did last year (12 minutes) he’s scoring more than 2 ppg more. The two big changes in his game this year are the increase in his field goal percentage and his new found ability to drive and draw the foul. The latter is really at the heart of his improvement.

    So far this year Sasha has taken 35 FTA. He only took 45 during all of last season. Plus, he’s 60% in the immediate basket area and taking 22% of his shots from there.

    Although he’s still somewhat inconsistent from night to night, with Ariza, Farmar, and Radmanovic, you know at least one of them will go off and provide and real boost every night and sometimes more than one of them. Sasha is just as much a part of the great play of the bench as any of the others.

  31. Don’t sleep on Chicago they are 6-3 in their last nine.

  32. I was looking at the Hollinger rankings, and he has Houston at the 9th seed in the West with a 58% chance of making the playoffs. Can someone explain how it’s statistically possible to have a team not predicted to make the playoffs (according to the rankings) have a better than 50% chance of making the playoffs?

    Thanks.

  33. Sure Kwame can D up a lot of players down in the post, but unless he starts consistently rebounding, he doesn’t deserve a renewed contract. If you want to plug him into a purely defensive role, D isn’t enough, hit the glass big guy!

  34. 31. The teams are ranked based on their chance to make the playoffs. So if the team in the 8th spot has a 60% chance then they will be ranked 9th in front of the 9th place team with a 58% chance. Its basically saying that 58% of the time the Rockets made the playoffs in his simulations, but the team above them made it 60% of the time. If that makes any sense.

  35. 2-2 is reasonable, 3-1 isn’t out of reach, 4-0 is wishing a bit too much.

    So many things can and will go wrong during road trips, and Chicago, Cleveland, Philly all are teams that are better than their records suggest. We still have an injured Kobe who can’t be going through his routine as well as he has at home, so playing hurt will be more of a factor too.

  36. Harold (35): I concur. Beating up on inferior teams on a routine basis requires consistency and execution, two bugbears of the Lakers since the 2004 implosion. We’ll see how well they’ve learned their lesson, but I’d be OK with 2-2.

  37. 32. I believe the simulations are run independently. For instance, the chances of the Lakers making the playoffs and the chances of the Spurs making the playoffs are independent analyses. So, he has the Lakers at 99%+ based on various factors, Rockets as an example at 58% based on their individual factors. The simulations take into account all of Hollinger’s statistics on how the the team has played thus far and projects that performance forward 5,000 times. Then, taking all independent simulations he ranks the teams based on the results, the highest percentage as number 1 and so on. The probability of the rockets making the playoffs at 58% while being ranked 9th is more a function of the fact that there is still a lot of basketball to play. Because of the simulations, there are a lot of possible outcomes to occur for numerous teams. As the season progresses, i would assume the numbers would be become narrower.

  38. Riz (32): The only real constraint on the percentages for each conference is that they must add up to 800 percent (within roundoff errors), since there are eight playoff teams. The fact that there are more than eight teams with better than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs simply means that the bottom half of the likely playoff teams are very evenly matched.

    Here’s a simpler example, for a five-team conference, where the top three teams make the playoffs. Suppose we simulate the conference 10 times, and get the following sets of playoff teams.

    Suns, Warriors, Lakers: 3 times
    Suns, Warriors, Clippers: 3 times
    Suns, Lakers, Clippers: 2 times
    Suns, Lakers, Kings: 1 time
    Warriors, Clippers, Kings: 1 time

    As you can see, the Suns make it 9 times (90 percent), the Warriors make it 7 times (70 percent), the Lakers and Clippers each make it 6 times (60 percent), and the lowly Kings make it just 2 times (20 percent). Those figures add up to 300 percent: the percentage equivalent of three playoff teams. Nonetheless, there are four teams that have better than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs. What you’re seeing is the dogfight between spots 2, 3, and 4.

    That’s basically what’s happening in the Western Conference these days (in Hollinger’s digital fishbowl). There’s not much separating spots 7, 8, and 9. Those three are duking it out, and taking a roughly equal share of what amounts to two playoff spots.

    Over in the Eastern Conference, you don’t have that. There are only two close spots: 8 and 9, fighting over the last playoff spot, more or less. One of those is going to lose, and be out of the playoffs more often than not.

    It’s important to emphasize, much as Hollinger himself does, that one must not be misled by the precision of the percentages. There are three significant figures only because the simulations were run frequently enough to obtain such precision. Whether the simulations are accurate enough (that is, properly reflect the ability and execution of the teams) is another matter entirely.

    That accuracy will improve as the season wears on; on the other hand, the percentages will become less interesting, because near the end of the season, you’ll have a bunch of teams at 100 percent, a bunch of other teams at 0 percent, and there will only be a handful of teams with non-trivial percentages.

  39. 32 – Consider that if there were a few more fringe playoff teams, you’d probably have 8th seeds with a 25ish % chance of making the playoffs. But there’s only about 10 playoff contenders, and since the odds have to add up to 800 (100% for each playoff spot) you’re going to have a high percentage for that 9 seed.

    Take, for example, this scenario: 9 teams with an 88.89% chance of making the playoffs.

  40. 3-1 is what i expect from this team but surely they can lay a 2-2 goose egg as easily as post that 3-1 record.

    I will parade down fig with glee if we manage to pull a 4-0 road trip and win 5 out of the 6 last games…

    The only task that remains this season is picking up the real Lamar Odom on some bus stop and making sure he joins the rest of the squad at some point this season. Here’s to hoping we spot him on this road trip.

  41. Hey Everybody!!!! Go vote for Kurt and his blog at:

    http://www.bustedcoverage.com/?page_id=1122

    We have enough regulars here to make a push for him.

  42. 4-0 or 3-1 would be a logical prediction for the trip, but this team has a REALLY bad history of underestimating and playing down to their opponents on the road.

    They need to keep a close eye on Varejao in the Cleveland game, as he is the reason why they swept us last year. Aside from that, who could ask for a better gift than Kobe vs. Lebron? That game is expected to be huge.

  43. Mike in the Mountain West December 17, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    It’s true that this team had problems with bad teams last year but that hasn’t been the case so far. Case in point – last night’s beat down of the Clippers. Also, we’ve won both our games against Minnesota and our games against Chicago, Indiana, and Seattle. The only games we lost that we should have won are possibly Milwaukee and New Jersey.

    I think one of the main reasons for that is we no longer have a major weak link like Smush and our other weak links from last year have vastly improved and have solid help off the bench.

  44. I have this uncanny feeling that the Lakers seem to underestimate Eastern teams and tend to play worse than usual. I don’t know if it still holds true, but some I heard say that Eastern teams play “harder” or more physical than the West.

    Chicago will be a good one. The Bulls have been playing better of late and I bet KB24 will want to win on this building – same with the Garden. Since those 2 games both include a day of rest, I expect them to win both.

    After the Chicago game will be Cleveland. If its anything, Mamba takes pride into consideration and will try to disprove the hype of LBJ. Where’s my love? He says… Oh you love that other 23 guy… Extra salad dressing for this one.

    The only game that concerns me is Philly – being on the back end of the back-to-back. Philly is a cold town too but hey, its Kobe’s hometown! If its anything, he gets equally louder boos in Wachovia than cheers. The Sixers have been tearing it up as of late too. Dre Miller and Dre Iguodala have auditioned up with big games – one to stay on the team and one to earn that big money next year. In spite, I still think the Lakers can win this one IF LBJ’s team does not make it so hard on the front end.

    3-1 is the most logical prediction but 4-0 won’t be reaching for the sky. 2-2 will be a disappointment and 1-3 would really suck! You would not like how I will describe 0-4.

  45. Hollinger’s system seems to put too much emphasis on strength of schedule. I remember last year when the Lakers were playing really well (before the injuries) and Hollinger had the Lake Show ranked way low because Kobe & Co. hadn’t played a tough schedule.

    Now, it seems that Hollinger is going to the opposite extreme. Sure, the Lakers are playing well, but they are not the 2nd best team in the Western Conference.

  46. (45) – It’s not that the system puts too much emphasis on strength of schedule, it’s the fact that it doesn’t know that the Lakers beat the Spurs, Pistons, etc. when they were lacking their best players.

  47. Yeah, ditto 46. It doesn’t factor catching teams on the back end of a back to back, or catching teams when they weren’t at full strength.

    Also, the records are all too relative; i maybe mistaken, but as far as i know it only factors actual record of teams played, not THEIR strength of schedule. For example, it could just be that we’ve beaten up a lot of teams with ‘soft’ schedules, more than us beating up ‘quality teams.’

    As with all stats, and especially Hollinger brand stats that seek ‘objective’ answers through ‘subjective evaluation of objective stats,’ the rankings are inherently flawed and thus incomplete. Not saying they are totally irrelevant or meaningless, but it’s just Hollinger’s view.

  48. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom December 17, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    45, 46, 47-I agree with you, but just for the record Hollinger’s system also does not account for Laker injuries. We’ve been banged up a bit this year as well. And while it’s true that Kobe has not missed a game, other teams have more than one star. The Lakers don’t. So yes, you have a point in that the Lakers have gotten lucky, but the Lakers have not been 100% healthy either.
    Having said that, I like Hollinger’s system a lot better than Stein’s. You have to keep in mind that the reason for the Lakers high placement in Hollinger’s rankings is not just due to their strong schedule but also to the way they’ve beaten teams. The Lakers have blown out quite a few opponents. That says a lot.

  49. I would love to jump on the “I expect 3-1″ bandwagon, except that I have watched too many Lakers games the last few years. They will finish 2-2 on this trip, can’t really say which games the loss of focus that will lead to losses will come in, but unfortunately they will lose 2

  50. On Hollinger’s data…

    I agree that this is more or less a guage as to how a certain team is playing at this given point in time. While the Lakers have truly gotten lucky on several occasions, they too are injury-laden and remember we are without our starting center in Kwame for quite some time now…

    While strength of schedule is one of the bases for coming up with his numbers, it also includes how “easily” we have beaten teams in numbers. We beat Denver by a good whip and that counts for a lot. We have also beaten the Jazz and the Suns that are considered to be in the upper echelon of teams – back to back or not.

    Data like Hollinger’s can somehow be misleading too – putting us at #2 when we are NOT the West’s 2nd best. However, it also gives you an indication of How good we can be. I think Kobe did this for us. He did this last season too, but because of the major injuries we experienced, he somewhat reverted to his old me me self and thus the scoring barrage.

    Even in odds by Vegas, numbers are more or less indicators – but there is something the numbers cannot predict or value – Luck. All things being equal, as they say, “I’d rather be lucky than smart'”

    While we are at 14-9 (We should be 16-7 if not for the losses vs. Mil and NJ), I think Holly’s system also looks at the next 5-10 games of the Sched. As this thread suggests, I can see us being 17-10 at the end of the road trip.

  51. 46, you go to UCR too? I didn’t know there were any Laker fans out here…I’ve only met Kobe haters really

  52. I actually like Hollinger’s system of power rankings and playoff predictions. I think that when determining how good a team really is by using statistical measures, the most important factors are your strength of schedule and how many wins you have in your recent games (Hollinger goes by your last 10 gp). Schedule advantages like facing a team on their 2nd night of back to back games (or 3 in 4 nights) or playing a team that has injuries really evens out over the course of a season. How many times are the Lakers gonna have to play those same types of games where we are at the disadvantage? I know that if we lose those games we will go down in his rankings.

    Right now the numbers say that we are one of the better teams in the league. And it’s not like I’m planning the parade or anything, but is that really so far from the truth? Right now, the Spurs and Celtics are playing great team ball and are the class of the league. The Suns, Pistons, and Magic have all gotten off to very good starts as well. But while the Suns and Pistons have continued their good starts, the Magic are falling back some. After those 5 teams, name a team that is clearly better than the Lakers. Utah, Houston, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Golden State? All these teams are flawed (just like us), and of those teams we have beaten every team but the Hornets and Mavs (who we have not played). We also beat the Spurs….I know they were shorthanded but they beat the Mavs and the Jazz without Duncan right before our game.

    Anyways, I’m not the biggest Hollinger supporter, there are times he really bugs me with his tidy conclusions, but his power rankings seem strong to me. Last year when everyone was on Dallas, he was saying the Spurs were the real juggernaut. It was even pointed out above that his system had the Lakers low last year despite the strong start. Well, that ended up being true too. We ended up 42-20 and a 7th seed, which would have been the 8th if not for the tie breaker over the Warriors.

    When I look at this team, even with the injuries, I see a great coach, a transcendent player, an up and coming big man who is not just a stiff, and a bunch of good to very good players who have been doing their jobs and playing their roles. Now if we get Lamar to show consistency (or if a trade happens where we get a consistent 2nd option), this team goes from somewhat dangerous to contending team. I see the promise in this team, and I think the numbers say the same thing.

    Now lets just have these guys take care of business on this road trip…I’m thinking 3-1, but 4-0 would be a nice Christmas gift.

  53. UCR Alum here too, but live in Nor Cal.

  54. BTW, I meant 42-40 for the Lakers’ record last season.

  55. Warren Wee Lin, Why should we be 16-7 as not for the loses?….I’m sure we’ll win a few of those types of games this year, every team has numerous games they should or shouldnt’ win, always sound dumb when people say that about close loses, even if we’re probably better than those clubs….as so far as Lakers place in the west, I’d say you could honestly say the Lakers are the fourth best team in the west, there’s a whole bunch of teams in the west that are on our level, or around it, but we’ve actually shown more consistency than most, this is how I’d place the west at this point:
    1. Phoenix
    2. SA
    3. Dallas
    4 The Lakers
    5. New Orleans
    6. Denver
    7. Porland (have to put them here now)
    8. ( 3 team ttie) Golden State/Utah/Houston

  56. btw, I’d switch SA and Phoenix

  57. the other Stephen December 18, 2007 at 1:15 am

    i think odom’s first three shots in his nba career were 3’s. after that, he must’ve thought he was set in the 3 department and moved on to practice something else.

  58. Despite all the things many say Hollinger’s ranking system lacks, it is nonetheless a great indicator of how teams have played to date. There is still A LOT of season left to be played but I feel too many of you take his ranking with a huge grain of salt. Lakers have played some great basketball and beating the teams we’re supposed to beat and as well as some of the big boys shows the sign of a good team. Last year when Dallas was poised to make regular season history and Stein was going goo goo ga ga, Hollinger’s system consistently had the Spurs as the #1 team…

  59. The worst record in the NBA belongs to Minnesota. Three teams are next to worst.

    One is the Grizz at 7-17.

    Given that Pau Gasol is out “indefinitely” (with a jammed toe) and Milicic is a bit hobbled, and they are about to face a series of formidible opponents, they could soon be 7-20 or worse.

    Their playoff prospects this year don’t look strong.

    We may not be far from a repeat of last year’s Pau Gasol sweepstakes.

    Just a thought.

  60. Hoping for 3-1.

    reality? 2-2

  61. Darius,
    I think our #2 scorer is actually now on the team – how about Andrew Bynum? Since there are going to be nights when the #2 scorer is not as consistent as the #1, there is room for Vlade and Lamar to up their stats, but Andrew is developing into a consistent dbl/dbl guy. What else do you want?

    If we trade, it should be for someone with complimentary skills – like the Ariza trade. Gasol might be a good fit, but he will be asking big money and we do have Rony Turiaf.

  62. when I read this about Smush
    http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=6539

    I realized just how much we gained in the “subtraction equals addition” theory…that and adding Fish as the starting PG makes it even more impactful.

    this is one of the main reasons we are better this year, along with the emergence of Andrew, and to lessor degrees, Sasha and Vlade, a healty Ronnie in PF role, and the trade for Aiza will continue to reap benefits as the season progresses.

    but the main reason to me is that with Smush playing our starting PG, we had to carry a deficit, so to speak, and his current delima proves that even more. we are so much better off now. (poor Heat, almost $5Mil over 2 years)

  63. Mike in the Mountain West December 18, 2007 at 10:48 am

    From Simmons annual Trade Value column:

    22. Andrew Bynum
    His ceiling: The NBA’s best center not named “Dwight Howard” or “Yao Ming.”

    (Note: During the first 17 drafts of this column, I had Bynum ranked in the 40s because of ongoing concerns about his attitude and conditioning. What happens when he’s eligible for a lucrative extension? What happens when he finally gets paid? Can he keep the weight off? Will he go Oliver Miller on us? And isn’t he too young to keep breaking out that sourpuss in games when things go wrong? Then I watched him play spectacularly last week against San Antonio and Golden State and couldn’t keep him out of the mid-20s. He’s just too talented: light feet, great hands, quick ups, superb timing as a shot-blocker … there’s too much to like.)

  64. Craig W,
    “I think our #2 scorer is actually now on the team – how about Andrew Bynum?”

    I’m not sure that he is quite ready for that yet, which is why I don’t think the Lakers (as currently constructed) are contenders this year. I think they will be next year. (Could still happen this year if several players improve noticeably from their current performance level.)

    The other issue with Bynum is that the team needs to start feeding him the ball more if he is going to be the #2 option.

  65. Should go 4-0. I’d be OK with 3-1. With 9 am local tip-off against NYK, Sasha should light ‘em up with 3s

  66. Just to add fuel to the Hollinger Rankings fire, Lakers are now the best team in the west according to the rankings.

  67. exhelodrvr,
    I agree with you on both counts. However, I don’t really consider the Lakers contender for the championship this year – so I don’t worry too much about Andrew’s development. I do think he has the scoring mentality to be a #2 scorer so I want that developed this year. What I don’t want to do is to introduce an element into the team that is for this year only and messes with the chances to win it all next year and the years thereafter.

  68. The Hollinger Playoff predictor is a good indicator of how well a team is playing at the moment compared to the other teams. So right now the Lakers as good as a top 3 team in the West. But teams like Utah and Dallas are not playing as good as they are and will likely start playing better so they will rise up and the Lakers will eventually go through a tough stretch of games where they are not playing too well and fall a little bit.

    Though so far I would say the Lakers are in the 5-6 range in the west. I would predict that they battle Utah for the 5 and 6 spot.

  69. I would love to see Lakers vs. Celtics in the finals. Probably won’t happen. But here’s how it does: Drew continues to improve into a consistent 15-10 guy, Odom steps his game way up and becomes a much better defender and gives a consistent 18 to 20 points a game. Two very big ifs.

  70. 69. I second that. The ratings would be great too.

  71. The guy formerly known as Lamar Odom December 18, 2007 at 11:43 am

    67-might sound crazy, but I believe the Lakers to be the best sleeper team in the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if they end the season on a hot streak, and I’m talking about ending 15-5 or better. If this team gets hot there’s no one that can stop them. This is for sure. Not the Spurs or the Suns. The Lakers, barring any significant injury, can actually take the West. Yes, I said it. I’m actually glad they’re not playing their best ball yet. No team can play their best ball all 100 games of the season + playoffs…………unless you’re the bulls from ’96.
    So I’m glad we’re not really playing our best ball. We want to be at that level towards the end of the season. The Spurs will have to watch out. I’m not worried about the Suns or the Mavs at all.

    53-UCR alumni here too! I never thought I’d ever say that with this kind of pride.

  72. 66 – How much of that is because we just rolled over a depleted Clippers team that had to start Brevin Knight and Paul Davis and had to play the likes of Dan Dickau and Richie Frahm 20+ minutes? Hollinger’s ratings just isn’t the best way to evaluate a team. You have to watch them play, along with the other 29 teams in the league.

    I haven’t been watching every team, but those that I have seen in tell me that the Lakers are not the best team in the west. That would still belong to the Spurs. And I can’t put the Lakers ahead of the Jazz, either. But I am certainly less intimidated by the Suns, Mavs, Rockets, and Nuggets than I was two months ago.

  73. 71. I don’t know about the best in the West, but I think the Lakers can make a run at topping the Suns and winning the division. I know the Suns are made for the regular season with their running game and scoring, but I think they moved down a notch from last year. I think getting rid of Kurt Thomas was a big blow to an already limited front line. I think the Suns are already showing signs of vulnerability (although they just beat a Parker-less Spurs). I don’t see the Suns doing as well as last year and the Lakers improving to win 50+. It could spell a close race at the end of the year for the Pacific.

  74. Craig W.: While I agree that Bynum can eventually be that 2nd scorer, he is not that guy right now. We must all realize that Bynum is efficient because we are not asking him to be a primary scorer in the post. We are asking him to run the offense by establishing the post and making the proper passes, hit the offensive glass, and catch that lob pass that Kobe and gang are throwing him off that screen/roll action.

    I am not asking for more from any other player besides Lamar. Like I said earlier, if Lamar becomes consistent to the point that he is truly reliable, than we are a contender. And I am someone that actually believes that it’s possible for Lamar to find his game and be that guy. But if he continues to be up and down the way he is now, and we don’t make a trade to find that reliable 2nd guy we will not be an elite team, just a dangerous one.

    I’m all for developing Bynum and ultimately being able to reap the rewards of having a talented big man patroling the paint on both offense and defense. But, I am not in favor of putting all of our eggs in the “Bynum is the next great Laker center” basket and saying we have our guy now, we just need to wait. Because if Lamar (or anyone else on the team or a player that we trade for) slides in to become that 2nd threat we are contending for a title. We must understand the players roles for what their talent level is now. Bynum is not the 2nd banana right now. For all his promise and production this year, we have not treated him that way and to start now would be a mistake. We need to let him grow and give the greater responsibility of the 2nd best player to someone who is capable of doing it right now, this season. I am still looking to Lamar to be that guy, but like Kurt pointed out in his post a little while back, we have to be open to trading for that guy and using LO as the bait.

  75. I think 3-1 would be a good result and thats what they should aim for. With all the emphasis put on the Lakers having one of the toughest schedules so far, they need to handle these four games, otherwise it”ll be a disappointment. 2-2 will not cut it. Phi, NY, Chi & Cle are a combined 36-58, thats .38%, granted the Bulls and the Cavs are playing better than their record indicates. In summary, 4-0 is not ludicrous to hope for, and its definitely within their means, 3-1 would be good and I think that’s what they’ll do, 2-2 would be a dissappointment, and 1-3 or 0-4 I dont want to even talk about.

    Also, in terms of the Hollinger rankings, even if we go 4-0 on this trip I think our ranking will drop a few spots because our SOS % will drop considerably.

    P.S. UCR alumni here too; kinda weird

  76. Darius,

    I agree. Bynum has become a surprisingly good 3rd option. And that is why we can even have this conversation about the Lakers’ possibly contending. But, it is up to Lamar to step it up if we have a real chance.

  77. Darius & Paul,
    Lamar is who he is – and that is all. As trade bait he is damaged because every other GM knows he has probably reached his potential as a player. Unless you believe in radical conversion, Lamar will not get measurably better this year – at least we should not plan on it. That is why I say to plan on him for a #3 spot on the team and start grooming Andrew for #2.

    I am also in the camp that says we shouldn’t be increasing Andrew’s minutes above 25-30. This means we need another center to play 18-23 minutes a game and that can be Brown/Mihm/Turiaf. I really believe that Andrew can be our #2 guy with 25-30 minutes/game. He is that good.

  78. Yeah, relying on Lamar is indeed risky. As far as trade bait goes though, I think (really, I hope) that teams realize that Lamar is indeed a very good player, just miscast a little in this offense. His history shows that he can be a game changer (Miami days) and an impact player in the playoffs (ask Marion about that). But in the triangle he has never found the balance between his post game and his perimeter skills. I think he needs to be in an offense where plays are called for him, ie: Lamar you’re in the post now, then later, Lamar you have a wing iso, or Lamar you run the screen/roll. This way he has a singular focus on each and every play. He seems to play better this way. I always think back to the playoff series’ against the Suns where the game plan dictated that he would almost always be on the block trying to punish Marion. This singular focus seems to make him more effective. The free flowing nature of our offense seems to make him a drifter.

  79. Mike in the Mountain West December 18, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    It’s really unbelievable how bad Odom is playing this season. This is by far his worst season as a pro. If Lamar could just get back to his previous production we would be a 50 win team. If he is unable to return I think we have to seriously consider trading him before the deadline because it will be clear by that point he is no longer fitting in with the rise of young guns. He’s a great talent but he just may not be able to fit.

    Without speculating about the specifics or even if he becomes available, a guy like Pau Gasol I think would be a perfect complement to the team, a low post threat with a jump that plays decent defense. He’s also a good passer and a smart player.

    Getting some one like Pau makes a heck of a lot more sense than getting someone like Kidd. Kidd can’t shoot, has had problems with the triangle in the past, and is good at what our team already excels at: passing and rebounding.

  80. I’m not sure on how well Pau will fit with Bynum. You cant post both of them up at the same time, but I suppose you could play Pau from the high post and use his passing ability. I just don’t how well Pau and Bynum would play together.

  81. Mike in the Mountain West December 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    I guess Hollinger is doing his own power rankings in his NY Sun column. I think they are based on his mathematical rankings on ESPN but they don’t seem to be exactly the same. He ranked the Lakers at the 4 spot and here is what he said.

    4 LOS ANGELES LAKE RS (14–9) (6): With L.A. carving its way through a very difficult early schedule and looking very much like a top-three team out West, suddenly Kobe is acting like a much happier camper. I guess a deal to the Bulls doesn’t seem so appetizing these days.

  82. jellosjigglin’ December 18, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    1-0. it has begun.