Archives For December 2007

It’s a holiday tradition at my house (long before I had kids, which says a lot about me, sadly) — sitting down and watching the 1964 classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. What’s not to love about a quirky cast of characters teaching a lesson about acceptance? Well, I suppose the lesson of incessant marketing of the show is not a great lesson, but like many things around Christmas I choose to blatantly ignore what I don’t like.

But as I was watching it this year, it dawned on me that there are a lot of parallels between the characters in this Christmas classic and this year’s Lakers:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer = Andrew Bynum

He’s the hero of our story, Rudolph is the lovable young reindeer who is initially scorned because of his glowing nose — but in the end everyone learns they need him and his “skill” to lead the team on a snowy Christmas Eve.

In contrast, a handful of people in the Lakers organization loved Bynum’s raw skills, but the time it was taking them to develop had some players talking in grocery store parking lots about casting him out to the “Island of misfit players.” However, now that it has started to snow, suddenly Bynum is looking like a very good option.

Santa = Kobe Bryant

The Santa in this classic isn’t your always-lovable jolly old elf — he’s one of the first people to ridicule Rudolph and his nose. This is a cranky Santa, very worried about getting the Christmas toys delivered — and as soon as he realizes Rudolph can help to that end he comes on bended knee asking Rudolph to lead the team.

Kobe can be cranky, but like Santa we have to remember that without him all the hopes and dreams of a happy Christmas (or June in the NBA), are not going to happen. This is his party. That said, after looking around at the snowy landscape, he might be thinking Bynum can light the way.

Hermey = Lamar Odom

Hermey is an elf with an identity crisis — he doesn’t want to make toys, he wants to be a dentist. He runs away, connects with Rudolph as a fellow vagabond, and the two say they are “independent together.” Odom seems to want to be “independent together” with Kobe — both like to create with the ball in their hands. But Odom has a little bit of an identity crisis (is he a small forward or a power forward?) and just seems a little flaky at times. You like the character, but could there be a better choice to pair with Kobe/Rudolph?

Yukon Cornelius = Mitch Kupchak

Cornelius is the prospector that Rudolph and Hermey run into out in the frozen north. Cornelius is on a constant search for gold — throwing his pick into the snow, picking it up and licking it only to find nothing. To be fair, Mitch has had some good drafts recently and made some good trades (hello Ariza!) but still, the image of him as a lonely prospector was just too good to pass up.

The Abominable Snowmonster (a.k.a., “Bumble”) = Kwame Brown

Both Kwame and the Bumble are large, imposing physical presences that in the end really have no teeth. But they do each have one skill — putting the star on top of the Christmas tree or playing post defense on slower centers.

Misfit Toys = Misfit Players

The Island of Misfit Toys is the home of toys that no boy or girl wants. What about players whose skill sets don’t fit their teams, the players no fans? The NBA is full of these guys — Brian Cook was that with the Lakers (before the trade) and Sasha Vujacic has visited the island (but seems to be off it for now). But think about the entire league and some fun coming up with your own extended list.

Sam the Snowman = Roland Lazenby

The snowman (voiced by Burl Ives) guides us through the story of our intrepid heroes, all while holding a green umbrella. Who is the best chronicler of the Lakers today, a few years removed from Chick? Lazenby is my personal choice, but I’m not sure anyone has come close to filling Chick’s shoes.

Coach Comet = Phil Jackson

“My name is Comet. And even though I’m your instructor, I wanna be your pal.” Then he manipulates the young bucks. No mention of Comet being Zen, but isn’t the Buddha in him as it is in all things?

One on One with the Legends

Gatinho —  December 11, 2007

Indulge me on an off day (for Kurt and the boys), so I can burden you with a little City of Los Angeles history. It’s for a good cause, and it does involve the Forum Blue and Gold.

Los Angeles mayor James R. Toberman holds the distinction of switching on the city’s first electric streetlights. He served from 1872 to 1874 and again from 1878 to 1882 and was originally one of President Abraham Lincoln’s revenue assessors.

After helping to create the “Hollywood Holding Company”, he would have a part in the building of key Hollywood landmarks including the Roosevelt Hotel, the El Capitan Theatre, the Max Factor building and, Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

However, in the early 1900’s, his 29 year-old son Homer passed away. To honor their son, Toberman and his wife Emma established $25,000 in memoriam to the city of Los Angeles. The organization that was built from Toberman’s original donation still stands to this day in memory of his son.

Toberman Neighborhood Center, then the Homer Toberman Mission, was built in Echo Park in 1903 and by 1937 the mission had moved to its current location in San Pedro. It is one of the oldest charities in Los Angeles.

Their services are vital to the Harbor community and include after-school tutoring and mentoring, family counseling, and gang prevention and intervention. And their mission has been a successful one, as Toberman was named “Non-Profit of the Year” by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles in 2006.

So how does this involve the Lakers? Well…

What do you get the Laker fan who has everything? Or how about the Bruin fan? or any fan of the history of the game? How about a chance to be in the presence of some of the greatest players and coaches the game has ever seen?

Emceed by Stu Lantz, on January 12th, 2008 at the newly built Toberman Gym will be a live auction, lunch, photo opportunities, and a panel Q and A with these legendary guests:

John Wooden: the Wizard of Westwood
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 6 time MVP and NBA champ
Jamal Wilkes NCAA and NBA champion
Keith Erickson NCAA and NBA champion
Bill Walton NCAA and NBA champion
A.C. Green NBA champion
Tex Winter: Originator of the Triangle offense
Ann Meyers Drysdale FIBA Hall of Famer and Phoenix Mercury GM
Marge Hearn wife of the Voice of the Lakers Francis “Chick” Hearn
and Bill Sharman of USC, the Celtics teams of Russell and Cousy, and coach of the ’72 championship team

So, if you’re interested call 310-832-1145 x120 to reserve your seat today. Seating is limited to 300 people and tickets are $250 each. Those looking for a truly once in a lifetime event can purchase the Green Room experience for a more private audience with the legends for $5,000.

Thanks for your support, Happy Holidays, and Go Lakers!

-S. Thompson aka Gatinho

Winning is Golden

Kurt —  December 10, 2007

On the night the Warriors focused on not letting Kobe beat them — and it worked because while he had 28 points he was 9 of 23 shooting — the other Lakers stepped up. Outside of Kobe the Lakers as a team shot 60.4% (eFG%).

That was the case during the key run in the third quarter where the Lakers pulled away. Let’s break it down the Lakers scoring starting at 6:50 to go in the third — the Warriors have been on a 10-0 run in the blink of an eye to take a three-point lead. (The Warriors scored four points during this Lakers run but had a number of bad shots early in the clock and turnovers, like on Mbenga’s moving screen, which he only got called for once despite setting half a dozen in the game).

73-70 Warriors. Radmanovic and Odom play a two-man game on the weak side, with Odom getting the ball in the high post and giving it to Radmanovic as he uses Odom as a screen going toward the basket. Radman goes straight to the hoop but Mbenga is waiting with some help defense and rejects the ball into the Laker girls.

On the baseline out of bounds Odom skips the pass out high to Kobe, who takes one of those heat-check shots of his from 25 feet out on the wing. Tests confirm that Kobe is, in deed, hot right now.

73-73. Early in the clock Odom has the ball on the wing and is looking to get the ball into Bynum on the block, but instead hits Radmanovic curling from the weak side at the free throw line. Radman has shaken his man and gets a good look, but misses it. Still, Phil has to be frustrated — the Lakers needed to get the ball on the block and instead they shoot a quick 15-footer, playing right into Golden States hands.

(As a side note: Lamar Odom has been taking some heat at this site (and others) for his poor entry passes to Bynum on the block. I’ve been watching this and part of the problem is that Odom often doesn’t set up on the wing but likes to be deeper, closer to the corner — that cuts down the quality passing angles and makes the entry passes exponentially more difficult. Of course, that was not the case in this situation.)

Next time down, Fisher runs the same weak-side two-man game with Odom that Radmanovic did the previous possession, again getting the pass back as he goes to the hole. And, just like Radman found out, Mbenga can block shots.

After a Warrior miss, Kobe gets the outlet and pushes the ball up the left side of the court, and as he gets to the top of the key cuts to the right side and he draws the three Warrior defenders back with him. Kobe makes an over-the-shoulder skip pass to Fisher who has set up in the left corner, and Fish can hit that shot when he gets a good look like that.

76-73 Lakers. After another missed three Kobe pushes the ball up the right side and gets it to Fisher on the wing. The PG drives round the overplaying Ellis and gets into the lane and into the body of Mbenga, but no foul. The shot is rolling off the rim just as the hustling Bynum comes down the lane, and he puts it back in with authority. As we expected, the Warriors just had no answers for someone with the size and athleticism of Bynum.

Timeout Warriors. Play Artist Tiffany. Play Artist Michael Bolton.

78-75 Lakers. After an Azubuike 19 footer, Kobe dribbles into a couple different spots in the offense (from the top of the key to the right wing, down to the right high post) then tries a 15-foot turnaround with Boom Dizzle on him. Davis gets all ball, but the refs call him for the foul anyway. Kobe hits both.

80-75 Lakers. After another turnover the Lakers go back to the weak-side two man game, this time with Kobe running off Odom’s high-post pick. However, the Warriors clearly set out to stop Kobe all night and both defenders go with him. That leaves Odom with the ball and a very clean 17-foot look. Which he drains.

82-77 Lakers. After an Mbenga dunk, the Lakers are setting up the offense when Monta Ellis makes a stupid foul, pushing Fisher on the wing, 25 feet from the basket and knocking him out of bounds. The Lakers are in the penalty and Fisher hits both.

84-77 Lakers. Kobe brings the ball up using the slow-jogging Bynum as kind of a moving target to play around. The Warriors again focus on Kobe, who passes to a wide-open Odom at the three-point line. And this was the reaction of Lakers fans everywhere: “No Odom, don’t, you’re not hitting that… nice shot. This time.”

87-77 Lakers. The Warriors try to trap Kobe out by the half court line just as he brings it up, but Kobe splits the double team, almost loses it, then picks it up and thinks about shooting from 15 feet. But as he is in the air he spots Ariza in the far corner spotting up. Here’s what I like about Ariza — he shouldn’t shoot that shot and he knows it, so he headfakes as the defender runs at him, puts the ball on the floor, goes baseline and almost makes a spectacular dunk over Mbenga. He doesn’t but draws the foul and hits one of two.

That had the Lakers up by 11, and the game was never seriously in jeopardy after that.

A couple other thoughts from that game:

• Great note about the Lakers discipline and style that helps them close out quarters well over at Golden State of Mind. They also talk about Troy Hudson — This is why one-game +/- stats can be misleading, Hudson led the Warriors last night as a +14, but if you watched the game you know he didn’t play well.

• Who wins if the 2007 version of Team USA played the Dream Team?

My gut answer was the Dream Team would destroy them, but the more I thought about it the more I thought the game would be a matter of tempo — the Dream Team was bigger and stronger, but if the tempo really got racing the current team is more athletic, particularly with bigs who can run the floor, and they could get the win.

With Malice has been asking a number of bloggers about this and my answer is up today at his site. To see who I predict, head on over.

• One other note: remember in the comments to keep it business, not personal. There will and should be disagreements, but let’s keep the discussion on the issues and not the person. You know, the opposite of the presidential race.

Records: Lakers 11-8; Warriors 11-8
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.8 (9); Warriors 111.8 (7th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (11th); Warriors 109.3 (21s)t
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: ( predicts Walton starts, I think he sits out tonight, so here’s a guess)Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Chris Mihm
Warriors: Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins

Lakers Notes: It’s a little surprising to see the Lakers with the 11th best defensive rating in the league this season, it doesn’t match with what the eye sees. The Lakers defense has been inconsistent, at times quite good, at other times painful. Overall, The Lakers defense is better than last year, but still has some weak spots, which kwame a. pointed out well in the comments the other day.

1) Fish/Farmar-Neither of these guys are that tall or that quick (Farmar is fast) so they have had big problems containing players like Parker, D. Williams, C. Paul, AI. I hope Phil switches up to zone d some times and also change up the pick and roll strategy (instead of always going under the screen, aggressively double or switch)

2) Kobe- He is still roaming for most of the game. The best solution to this is to put him on the ball, he plays great on-ball d, but if he’s guarding a player who moves and shoots, his roaming d creates open shots and lanes for the opponents.

3) Mihm- When Kwame comes back, this should easily be solved.

The Warriors Coming In: They’ve won seven in a row and seem to be a hot and fearless team (have they seen a shot they don’t like?) To find out what’s behind this run and how far it can go, I asked a few questions of Atma Brother #1 from Golden State of Mind and The W Column?

The Warriors are as hot a team as there is in the Association right now, and it’s all thanks to Stephen Jackson. Right? That’s what I keep reading anyway. Seriously, what helped turn this team around a few weeks ago?

Jack has played a tremendous role in helping right this sinking ship after that 1-6 start. We call it The Jackson Effect.

Another big reason for the turnaround is that the Warriors are playing infinitely better team and individual defense. They’re using their speed and smarts to make up for their lack of bulk. Monta Ellis returning to his MIP form has also helped. Nellie’s pretty much killed the Marco Belinelli experiment too, which was just a disaster early on. Belinelli is still a young rookie, who has a lot of rough edges to work out before he reaches his seemingly high potential, and it really showed on the court. DJ Mbenga was a decent in-season acquisition as well that has given Nellie a big (very big) body to give teams a different look for a few minutes a game. Oh yeah not having to face the Utah Jazz twice in the span of 5 days really helps too.

2. Monta Ellis has played great of late, being a key part of this current run. What has evolved in his game to help him fit into the system Don Nelson runs?

Monta’s follow up season to his MIP campaign got off to a pretty rocky start. His defense (like every other Warrior) was pretty poor and he was oddly playing like a high volume, low percentage scorer, which wasn’t the case last year. For the past 10 games though there’s been a lot to like about Monta’s game. He’s playing smarter and using his uncanny speed and quickness to his advantage again. He’s been taking good care of the rock and sprinkling in some very nice dimes to complement his great scoring.

The most impressive addition to his game that really wasn’t there earlier in the season or even last year has been his rebounding. In the past 5 games he’s averaging 7.4 rodmans, which is a big reason Nellie has been able to stick with his smallish lineups and the Warriors have gone 4-1, with that one loss to the Magic in OT. Nellie probably still would like him to be more of a distributor in a more traditional point guard mold, but if Monta’s rebounding like he has been, I’m sure Nellie doesn’t mind Mississippi Bullet shooting for the rim before looking for others.

3. The knock on the Warriors is defense. Is it better than the early season numbers suggest, or is it still the Achilles heal? Is it the key to the Warriors taking the next step?

Depending on who they’re playing the Warriors are either an excellent defensive squad or a historically atrocious one. Slow rosters without a big bruiser down low are going to get locked up, picked, and run out of the gym by this speedy Warriors cast. Reasonably athletic rosters with skilled big men who know how to work the post and have a few shooters (Spurs, Jazz, Celtics, Magic, Cavs, and even the Lakers to some extent) will eat this team alive. Watching the Warriors this season and during their 16-5 spring run last season to make the playoffs has made me realize how stubborn and blind some NBA coaches can be. Feed your big men and pound the Warriors inside with even a good to average big man (Chris Kaman, Samuel Dalembert, Antawn Jamison, or even Al Thornton) and you will own the Warriors on most nights. If the Lakers want to win tonight’s game just feed Andrew Bynum, Ronny Turiaf, or Lamar Odom in the post and then dish it out for some open jumpers. I’m not even kidding. It’s really just that simple.

4. He’s a personal favorite (and still very popular in LA) — just how much fun is it watching a healthy Baron Davis every night?

There are very few players in the entire association that are as fun to watch as Baron Davis on any given night. He dazzles you with his amazing handles, crafty finishes, unbelievable dishes, swift footwork, power in the post, and big shots. BD is one of the few players in the league that could fit right in to those 80’s Showtime Laker squads or 90’s Run TMC teams and they wouldn’t miss a beat. Boom Dizzle has incredibly high hoops IQ and his game is very old skool in many respects. We’re lucky to have him in the Bay. You take away Dizzle from this Warriors squad and this team’s win totals will instantly fizzle as they go Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Minus Baron the Warriors are possibly the worst team in the league. Hopefully this is the year fans and coaches around the league finally recognize game and put this man in the All-Star game. We could us your help Laker fans!

Injury Update: Kwame Brown and Luke Walton are game-time decisions. Luke twisted his ankle in practice the other day (and if I were going to give him a game off, this might be it, he is not a big match up plus in a run-and-gun style). T

Keys To The Game: The book for beating Golden State is pretty simple and Atma Brother #1 told us what it was — pound the ball on them on the inside. Heavy doses of Chris Mihm and Andrew Bynum on the block, and the Lakers should be posting up Lamar Odom as well (maybe even Kobe). Also, the Warriors give up more offensive rebounds than any team in the NBA — the Lakers need to pound the offensive glass to get the easy putbacks (and slow the Golden State break).

This is going to be a fast-paced game — the Warriors play at the fourth fastest pace in the league, the Lakers sixth — but the Lakers can’t get sucked into Golden State’s game. At some point Don Nelson will try to run the Lakers out of the building by going small, putting Al Harrington at center and matching him with a bunch of shooters and Baron Davis. Pat Riley’s Heat had a comfortable lead the other night when Nelson went small, and after a few made buckets, Riley decided to match that style. Big mistake, and the Warriors got a great win. The Lakers need to stick with what they do and not play the Warriors’ game.

One other thing the Lakers will need to do is play good defense in the paint, not giving up lay-ups and forcing the Warriors to shoot jumpers. They will do it, they love to shoot and shoot fast, so just take away the path of least resistance to the basket.

Tonight’s Game: Where Boom Dizzle Happens: I’m just looking forward to watching this one. I love to watch Baron Davis play. I think Bynum could have a huge game. This is a team the Lakers will be battling for playoff position at the end of the year, so a win here is a big plus.

Where you can watch: Game time is 6:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports, if you can listen on the radio check out AM 570 where Spero Dedes will rock the mic.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  December 7, 2007

Haven’t had a chance to do the old FB&G standby of quick thoughts and other links recently, I used to think I did this too much but lately I’ve missed it. So, we’re back, baby.

• The biggest Lakers news: According to friend of the siteNate Jones, Rambis is trying to regrow his ’80s stash. More than anything else, I’ll be looking for that in the next broadcast.

• One thing of note from the last post here where trade discussions were allowed in the comments — almost unanimously Bynum joined Kobe on the untouchable list for trades. Not really a surprise after the start of this season. But, that would not have been the consensus of this board six months ago, and I think more people than not would have given up on him a year ago for a lot less than Kidd. All of which is to say, next time you blast the front office for not seeing that ‘player X” clearly will/will not develop into something, remember they were ahead of you on the Bynum curve and knew what they were doing.

• There was a great follow up thought (and way to kind of words for me) from Kelly Dwyer when looking at the last post (and the Lakers situation):

I do have to point out that “superstar on a team with just enough to make the playoffs and little else” bag isn’t going away. With the luxury tax effectively ushering in a hard salary cap, we’re going to see a lot of teams with stars that take up a third of the payroll with one large deal, a semi-star who is probably overpaid and a load of cheapies surrounding them. Prepare for a whole host of 48-win teams over the next few years. The NBA won’t reach an NFL-level style of parity, but it will move in that direction. Also, don’t be surprised to see some sort of contract restructuring language added into the NBA’s next Collective Bargaining Agreement, so guys like Kobe and KG can re-do their contracts in order to bring more help in.

• One other note. A few people suggested the Lakers go get a free agent next year — remember that the Lakers will be over the salary cap, meaning they can only offer the mid-level exception (what VladRad signed for), they cannot make a big offer. Not many teams can, frankly.

• Interesting discussion over at With Malice — who wins in a Dream Team vs. 07/08 Team USA matchup. Jeff from Celtics Blog, Henry from True Hoop and others weigh in for round one, I’m in for round two going up in a couple days. (Hint, I think it’s a closer game than you do.)

• I love watching Iverson play, especially when he’s hot like he was Wednesday night. I don’t want him on my team, but I love watching him play.

• This season’s early returns are in at NBA Hot Shots, a favorite tool of mine. Plus, colors make it pretty. Anyway, the Painted Area does some interesting early looks at why LeBron is hot and Dirk is cold so far.

• At some point I’m going to do a whole separate post on this, but I can’t say it enough — kuddos to the Lakers for the upgrades to the Web site this year. The quantity and quality of stuff has been great.

The Next Step

Kurt —  December 6, 2007

We’re almost 20 games into the season, and there have been some exhilarating ups (like last night’s win in Denver) and rather jagged downs.

And through it all, here’s what I think we’ve learned about the Lakers — they are a solid second-tier team in the Western Conference.

Which is an impressive sign of growth (and better than many national experts thought). However, how the team got there may be different than many imagined — this is a team right now with a superstar (Kobe) leading some fast-emerging young talent (enter Andrew Bynum) and a number of guys who are good role players who fit the system. It’s a good, solid, deep team.

So how do you take that next step to contender? Well, you need a key second “star” to mesh with Kobe and the up-and-coming Bynum.

I kept hoping that Lamar Odom would be that cog, and I’ve wanted that for as long as he’s been here. He’s hard not to like as a person, always seeming humble and personable. As a parent myself, my heart ached for him last year, and still does. I wanted so badly for him to succeed.

But I’ve finally come to accept Lamar for what he is — a good, but inconsistent player. Fragile. At times brilliant. Other times absent. At both ends of the court. A guy with good numbers at the end of the night but not one I think the Lakers can count on to bring the Lakers to the next level.

Lamar’s recent struggles to adjust to playing the three — what he said was his natural spot before the season — highlight this. Here are Lamar Odom’s offensive ratings (points he’d score if he used 100 possession) the past five games: 85.3, 85.7, 98.3, 76.8, 75.6, 100.3. Those are bad numbers, to put them in context the Lakers season offensive rating is 110.8, and Kobe consistently is 120 or higher per game, he’s efficient. For the season Odom using 16.6% of the team’s possessions when he is on the floor, down by 18.9 last year, a sign of his uncomfortableness and passivity.

Last night, in the fourth quarter and the game tight, Odom got two chances starting with the ball out on the wing to create something with a bit of a mismatch on him, because Denver was trying to deny Kobe the ball. Both trips were empty and ugly. The Lakers went back to Kobe, and he came through.

It’s not just that game, this recent streak, but rather more than two seasons of pulling for Odom to step up that I’m giving up on. I’m not unhappy with Odom, I’ll still root for him as hard as ever, I’ve just come to a Zen-like acceptance that he is who he is. And who is he is not who the Lakers need.

If that is the case, I see two paths the Lakers could take to become contenders in the next couple of years (and not risk losing Kobe):

1) Trade Odom and filler to bring in a true number two star to this team. That player would likely have to be a four, someone to provide toughness and defense that Bynum is inconsistent at right now, but there may be other options I’m not seeing.

2) Trade one of the young point guards, Kwame Brown’s expiring contract and filler at the trade deadline to bring in a high quality player who can compliment Kobe, Odom and Bynum and make the Lakers a contender. I’m not sure if this player is out there yet, but the season is young. (This was always the theory with the now likely dead Jermaine O’Neal talks — from my perspective you needed Kobe, Odom and the JO of old to compete, so to offer Odom and Bynum for JO was a lateral move. Right now, with the way he is banged up, there is no way we should give up Bynum for JO.)

There are other paths.

3) Trade Kobe for young talent and let Bynum, Farmar, Crittenton, Walton, Ariza and Turiaf and the young players brought in grow together into a powerhouse in a couple years. I’ve never liked this plan for one simple reason — you just don’t trade a Kobe in his prime. First off, it’s a stupid business move because season ticket holders and sponsors would revolt. But even basketball wise, who can you get that will really fill that void on the court. The hardest part of building a contending basketball team is getting that one transcendent piece — your Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett guys. The Lakers have that in Kobe and have him in his prime. You build around that, not let it go.

4) Wait and see how the existing team grows and if it can reach the next level on its own.

If I were the Lakers front office, I’d be thinking about and putting feelers are out there for options one or two. This team is close, it’s growing and coming together, it just needs to be nurtured and one more key piece added. But if not I’d wait, because option four is more likely be successful than three.

All Is Right With The World

Kurt —  December 6, 2007

And not just because the Lakers got a quality win on the road. This may be the best news for fans of good NBA news in a long time — Kelly Dwyer has a blog.

KD is a friend of this site, and one of the most insightful and clever NBA writers out there. had him and didn’t know what to do with him, classic old media stuff. Now he’s blogging like the madman he is at Yahoo and, trust me, you’ll feel smarter after you read it.* Yahoo is making some great moves lately — they are going to be a major blog player sooner rather than later.

(Also, local blog news, LAists’ Tony Pierce going to the LA Times is a great smart step by the big paper to get in the modern game. I hope the older guard listens to him.)

*Bearing on actual IQ scores unknown. Studies have been inconclusive.

Records: Lakers 10-8 Nuggets 11-7
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.7 (7th); Nuggets 107 (15th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (13th); Nuggets 101.1 (2nd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Chris Mihm
Nuggets: Allan Iverson, Anthony Carter, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby

The Nuggets Coming In: After an up and down start, we all have some questions about this Nuggets team — and who better to ask about those issues than the Nugg Doctor, one of the better team blogs around. Here are his answers to my questions, but be sure to go to his site for the questions I answered — they seriously think Sasha was acting when he was choked by Melo last game.

1) The offense is a surprising weak link with the Nuggets so far. Is that the lack of structure (something you complained about) or what else is going on here?

All of the offensive problems the Nuggets have run into so far this year have been because of too much individual effort and not enough team effort. In games that the Nuggets have won, they almost always record 25+ assists. But, as we saw in the game against the Rockets, eight assists or a similarly low total almost surely means the Nuggets take the L.

2) You’ve expressed frustration with the inconsistency of the Nuggets this season (a familiar refrain for Lakers fans). Can you put your finger on why the Nuggets fall prey to this?

The main aspect of the consistency conundrum the Nuggets get faced with is leadership. AI is a great scorer and creator, but I’m not sold on his leadership abilities. Carmelo is just not vocal enough at this point in an otherwise fine career to get the job done every night either. Anthony Carter has comeback from injury and is helping us, but until Chucky Atkins comes back from his groin pull, or Coach George Karl decides he wants to work the sidelines, the Nuggets are going to experience stretches where there is no clear leadership.

3) The Nuggets have a lot of talent, but does it have the right balance and role players to reach the next level? If not, what type of changes would you want to see? I would just like to see the Nuggets get a full roster of players healthy for once!

I think that we have the role players on the roster, but guys like Nene, Chucky Atkins, and Steven Hunter are definitely three of our best in this department and they are unavailable. Right now, I look at the Nuggets as a team with their meat and potatoes, (i.e. Carmelo, AI, and Marcus Camby), on their plate, but they are missing their au jus sauce and red wine to wash it all down with.

4) Do you still see this team as a potential Western Conference Champion come the playoffs?

Yes, I do still see this team going as far as the Western Conference finals if, and when, they get everyone back and the chemistry can develop. My reasoning behind such a bold statement is Denver is arguably one of the deepest teams in the west at full strength and also one of the most talented. The Nuggets have guys on their bench that would start for a lot of teams in the NBA this year and if we can find the right rotation recipe and have everyone buy into the schematic that will result in good team play then I believe there is not a team in this league that the Nuggets can’t beat!

The Lakers Last Night: Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf are watching at home, Andrew Bynum is watching from the dressing room feeling sick and taking fluids, Kobe hasn’t eaten all day because of the flu — and the Lakers still cruise to a win. Yes, it was Minnesota, but a road win when you are limping along is a good thing, I don’t care who its against.

Good to see Chris Mihm step up. The guy has taken some heat from Lakers fans but he is clearly not the athletic Mihm from before the injury. Yesterday was a step forward, however.

Then there was Trevor Ariza, getting his first serious burn and basically demanding more run because of his play. Good defense, getting to the rack, playing within himself. His defense against other second units could be a terror that creats some fast breaks for the Lakers.

Let’s just hope everyone is healthy tonight.

Keys To The Game: Getting Kobe and Fisher the entire fourth quarter off last night is a big plus, but this is still a tough game for the Lakers. Denver will be a little more motivated than the average regular season game after the embarassment of last week.

The Lakers need to take care of the ball — turnovers got the Nuggets the big lead last game, then when the Lakers shut off that faucet they were able to come back. Kobe is going to have to have a big game, and Odom is going to have to play better defense on Melo than he did last game.

Where you can watch: Game time is 6 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9), nationally you get the joy that is ESPN.