Game Preview & Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

Kurt —  January 9, 2008

Records: Lakers 22-11; Hornets 23-11
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (6th); Hornets 109.4 (11th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (7th); Hornets 104.1 (4th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Hornets: Chris Paul, Mo Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Tyson Chandler

Lakers Notes: Last night was a reminder of just what a big improvement the Lakers have a point guard this year. Mike Conley is a good young guard — he was still able to get to the rack with Fisher playing five feet off him, Conley just couldn’t finish consistently — but Fisher was the savvy veteran who took him to school.

And, this was another “quiet” night from Odom where he still had 10 points and 15 boards. To me, the key is, with the emergence of Bynum and steady play out top from Fisher, the ups and downs of Odom’s game don’t impact the team as much any more.

On a different topic, Lakers.com did a big two-part interview with Mitch Kupchak, and I thought a couple comments he made deserved note:

On the bench’s struggles of late: The NBA season is ebbs & flows and NBA teams will take note of a bench that is effective and make adjustments as the season goes on. Just like a player that starts out great going to his right, the second time around they’re going to take away his right and make him go to his left. Our bench is going to have to make adjustments because they’ve made some notoriety for themselves and there will be more pressure for them to perform. Now it’s up to them to make an adjustment and continue to provide us with a boost off the bench.

On the team getting more lay-ups and fewer jumpers from their guards:
I know our coach has made a point of having a so-called secondary break, which means that if there’s not an official fast-break, we do have a secondary break where he allows the players to freelance before getting into the triangle. A lot of times a player will react to the freedom of getting out and running, cutting, and being more innovative which might lead to more lay-ups.

Typically out of a set offense with the clock running down you’re probably going to end up with jump shots. A higher percentage shot would normally come in a break of secondary break situation and that is something that our coach’s worked on this year versus last year.

On Coby and Javaris: Coby’s been sent down to the D-League, incidentally that’s something that we might do with Javaris—we’ll evaluate that as the season progresses, perhaps by the end of January we’ll have a better feel.

The Hornets Coming In: They are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and are linked in headlines nationwide with the Lakers as the “surprise” teams of the NBA this season. So what is going on in The Big Easy? We asked the guys from At The Hive:

Chris Paul has improved his shooting this season, both inside and outside the arc. The stats say he’s shooting 10% more jumpers and hitting a higher percentage of them (up to 48.5% this season). What is he doing with his game to create shots for himself?

While the numbers do indicate that he’s taking a significantly higher portion of his shots on jumpers, I really don’t think he’s been “looking” for his own shot. The reason I say that is his “assisted on” numbers for jump shots have stayed virtually constant (20% last year, 19% this year). To me, those numbers indicate he’s taking a lot more shots in the rhythm of the offense. To answer your question, Peja and Mo-Pete have done a lot to create jump shots for Paul simply by standing out on the wings.

I’d say the main reason his eFG% is up is because he’s wide open so often. Teams are saying “go ahead and knock down that 20 footer; we’re guarding the drive.”

The biggest change this year is how much improved the Hornets defense is compared to the last couple years. What is different?

I can talk all I want about how CP’s so awesome at driving, West hits jumpers, this, that. But I’d be kidding myself if I said defense isn’t the reason this team has played so well. For starters, Mo-Pete has made a very underrated contribution as a one-on-one defender since coming over from Toronto. As much as people may make fun of Peja’s defense (myself included), there’s an undeniable level of difficulty added to a shot when you’re firing over a 6’10” SF. Of course, he wouldn’t even be able to guard the a driving Manute Bol, but David West and Tyson Chandler are very physical help defenders. Quieting LeBron was a real test for this team, but they were up to the task. Of course, there will be two huge challenges this week in Kobe and D-Wade.

Last year it seemed like Chris Paul against the world, although David West was always solid. This year Peja and Tyson Chandler are healthy and contributing points. How has that changed the team on offense?

This one can be answered sort of anecdotally. The impact those guys have had can be illustrated by a single play the Hornets seem to obsessed with: the high screen and roll. In fact, I’m willing to bet the Hornets go to the high screen at least 5-6 times versus the Lakers; it’s basically become the go-to play. The unique thing about this play is that any of the five guys on the court can score. Normally, it’s set on the left wing, and Chris Paul will drive hard to his right (toward the hoop). If the center helps the point guard with Paul, he’ll throw the alley-oop. If the SF or SG come to help, Peja or Mo-Pete can get off a three. David West is usually the last option on this play. Last year, when they ran the high screen and roll, the SF and SG could cheat off their men to guard the CP drive. And of course, if nobody comes to help, Paul has a lay-up.

So Much Good Reading: Lots of good things I just wanted to link to today.

First off, Kelly Dwyer over at Yahoo asks why it’s only the bloggers that seem to talk about defense? And sure, I linked to a story that quotes me, but KD’s work there has fast made this one of my favorite stops on the NBA Web. You need to read his stuff.

The always-insightful Bethlehem Shoals posts about the NBA’s up-and-comers (including the Lakers) over at Deadspin. And another of my favorites, Harlan at Hoops Analyst, also has a good look at the NBA surprises (although he thinks the Lakers defensive turnaround has less to do with everything than I do). Hoops Analyst was one of the first NBA blogs I read, and I still read everything there.

Last Time These Two Met: It was just the fourth game of the season and it was a real stinker for the Lakers, who lost 118-104. The Lakers were all geared to stop Paul (who, as Henry at True Hoop noted yesterday, may be the fastest player from high pick to lay-up in the league), so the Lakers collapsed on him when he got in the lane. Paul kicked out to a wide open Peja Stojakovic, who hit 10 of 13 threes on the night and finished with 36. David West chipped in 22.

Keys To The Game:My thoughts watching that first game was that the Lakers needed to take the “Steve Nash” approach — make Chris Paul the shooter. Yes, he can shoot, yes, he will have a big night. But, while Paul is shooting 51.2% (eFG%) on the season that is a lower percentage than a Tyson Chandler dunk or letting Peja have open shots from three again.

The Hornets are a slower version of the Suns (NO is averaging 8 fewer possessions a game than the Lakers) — the offense is predicated on letting a great point guard create. That happens in transition screen and rolls (Chandler gets his points on that roll). David West and Peja spot up around this and hit the kick out shots. Also, Paul gets a lot of steals that leads to easy buckets the other way, Fisher and Farmar need to take care of the ball.

This is going to be a key game for Bynum and Kwame, they have to stop Paul’s penetration (no PG in the league is fast enough to do that alone) and the bigs need to do it because you can’t leave the shooters on the wings.

Also, the one big weakness for the Hornets is the bench — the Lakers bench needs to shine tonight if LA is going to get the win.

Tonight’s Game: Where Jambalaya Happens: Second game of a back-to-back on the road against a quality team that matches up well with you (quick PGs give the Lakers fits) is never a good situation. The good news is that all the Lakers starters, save Kobe, rested the fourth quarter last night.

I look for a close game this time around, the question is how much the Lakers have in the tank at the end.

Where you can watch: Game time is 5 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9).

Kurt

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80 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

  1. Thanks Kurt…

    Does Lamar seem to anyone else as if he is pissed off at something? Maybe just frustration with his shot but he looks out of sorts.

    I am hearing more and more talk about KG for MVP (I know…its not even half way thru the season…but they are talking already). While KG is playing great….I really dont see that KG has made Paul Pierce or Ray Allen any better. Each of those guys is one of two pieces that each of the others has always needed. They are fanatastic palyers…without a doubt. But…I dont know about MVP.

    (and to my point) Kobe on the other hand…has players that are good (they are in the NBA) but none of them are to the caliber of The Boston 3 party ( I like that tag line for them best). And while most likely unintentional, Kobe’s trade talk and slamming his teamates…I really think has gotten those guys to play a lot better. Am I making any sesne? Kobe is surrounded by mediocrity and the Lakers are winning. You take Kobe out of that mix and you have the Timberwolves…or worse.

    I am probably preaching to the choir on this board…but I just had to get this out.

  2. To be fair to KG, his presence in the paint has turned Piers and Allen into good defenders, something nobody expected. I really want Kobe to win it, but I’m not going to be all that pissed if KG does, simply for his body of work.

  3. 1-Yeah, KG has been great….I have a hard time feeling anything but admiration for the guy because of how he’s conducted himself throughout his whole career and how he has played, but I think also that it is a similar situation to some of the pushes for David Ortiz for MVP in baseball. He had Manny alongside him two years ago really serving as 1a to Pappy’s 1. I think there is something comparable to this in Boston (and I like that nickname too) now with Paul Pierce and Ray Ray. I don’t know really if he should be a clear front-runner. Perhaps he should, I just don’t know. I think Chris Paul should also receive some serious consideration given how well his team is also playing. To me Kobe stands out a bit more than KG but as you said, it’s early. I guess we’ll see.

  4. The guy formerly known as Lamar Odom January 9, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    That is really too bad. The year Kobe deserves it KG also deserves it, and to make it worse KG’s team is on pace to get one of the top records of all time.

    To answer Burning Joe’s question, I think Lamar IS pissed off. Maybe he’s been reading this blog and the comments we make about him.

  5. The Real Lamar Odom January 9, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    In other news, we’ve cracked the 107 mark in Hollinger’s ratings. We’ve moving on up!

    Damn, Kurt, you’re quick!

  6. Mitch also makes the same observation about the bench performing well when Andrew was still coming off the bench.

  7. I don’t see Kobe winning it this year. The big drop in PPG from the season before, and if he ends up with a noticeably crappier shooting percentage too I figure that should disqualify him.

    His summer shenanigans probably won’t help with the voting either.

  8. Any news on Marc Gasol (or even Sun Yue) ?? I enjoyed the international updates on him.

    Great win last night and I have a feeling we are going to win tonight. We were without Odom last time (and Kwame but does that really matter?) and I don’t think Peja can make 10 three’s against us again. As long as we play tall and stay on “our man” on the perimeter, we should win this game. I am a bit worried about Tyson Chandler…….but hopefully, Bynum and Kwame can neutralize him. I think the X factor for the Hornets is David West and for us its Lamar Odom.

  9. thanks for not shredding me guys…

    Having KG Ray and Paul on the same team…I knew each of thier individual Defensive performances would increase…a lot of people doubted that…but I knew they would get better at the D-End of the floor…they only have 1/3 the pressure on the O-End now…but that dosent mean that one of those players stands out above any of the other 2…the other 2 are still superstars in this league.

    And Chris Paul…would get my overall #2 vote for MVP…maybe even #1 depending how the season goes…Who else is on the Hornets? I mean really? yea there are some good players…some that glimmer superstar play (read Peja and Tyson) but its only Glimmer (just like LO and Bynum).

    The game tonight is going to be fun to watch. I wonder if Kobe is going to pick up Chris Paul? I think D-Fish can handle Mo-Pete….especailly the way the Lake show has been playing pick-up D.

  10. The Lakers have sharpened their toolkit since last playing the Hornets, and they will need to use them wisely–especially with Paul. One of them is improved rotation on defense, coupled with the ability of the defensive point guard to “direct” Paul toward defensive help. That is especially important when one considers the role of Peja in the Hornets offense–and what he did to the Lakers last time. Another is to make Paul a defensive liability. I’d look for Fisher to start the game with an aggressive offense. It doesn’t have to be through his shooting alone. Derek can make good passes and set up teammates too. Unless we get his mom to New Orleans, I’m not sure that Derek will have another 10 for 11, 26 point night.

    Another tool might be to try to use the size of Sasha or Trevor on Paul from time to time–and to get the ball out of his playmaking hands. Still another tool involving other players might be to get Chandler in foul trouble much like the Lakers did with Milicic yesterday–another way to diffuse the high pick and roll. It will be interesting to see if “twinkletoes” makes a difference defending the high pick and roll.

    If the Lakers can lower Hornet shooting percentages and increase Hornet turnovers, don’t worry about supposed Kobe slumps–the offense will take care of itself.

  11. First- some premature celebration- if we win tonight and detroit beats dallas the lakers will be tied for the 2nd best record in the west. it remains to be seen if we can stay up in the top half of the bracket, but i don’t think any of us buy those comparisons to last year’s 26-13 lakers. no smush+less kwame+fish/farmar+lots of bynum=much better team. tonight’s game should be a great insight as to how good we are. all kinds of reasons we should lose tonight. teams with great pg’s give the lakers fits, second game of road back-to-back, hornets being hot.
    second- I have questions about the kobe for mvp campaign here. Note: i am not about to evolve into kobe bashing. i got that all out of my system this summer. kobe is one of the best players in the league for sure. but he hasn’t wowed us that often lately, and i’m not too sure he ever fully recovered from his injury a few weeks ago. he’s still reluctant to penetrate, and doesn’t have his usual lift for lay-ups or jumpers. it’s still early in the year, and if the lakers to get one of the top 4 seeds, they’ll need an mvp-level kobe.
    that said- my x-factor tonight is kobe. he always contributes on d and even on off shooting nights the other team has to focus its d on him, making everyone else better. but i don’t see us winning tonight if he shoots at or below the 40% mark. these are games mvps win for their teams. that doesn’t mean he needs to jack up 30 shots, but i don’t think 8-20 will cut it tonight. if the hornets win, you know it’ll be because paul allowed them to win.

  12. the other stephen January 9, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    if we keep doing well, we can keep giving crittenton PT. the Lakers could really use him down the stretch. hire someone to work with him one on one or something!

  13. I was little disappointed to read Mitch’s suggestion that Critt might get sent down to the D-League for a while. I know he hasn’t gotten much burn and he’s still prone to rookie mistakes (trying to do much, playing a little too fast, etc.), but I’d like to see him develop against NBA competition. I think he just needs to get his sea legs, so to speak, and I also worry that he’s the type of guy to interpret a move like that as a blow to his pride (especially given his reaction to how late he was drafted). Critt has a lot of the same tools that CP3 does, and while he’ll likely never be quite as good, I think he could be something special as early as two years from now.

    Then again, the Lakers’ coaching staff is filled with much wiser men than me.

  14. 10. Drrayeye, great point about making CP3 play defense will be key in slowing him down. Getting a few fouls on him would help too.

  15. i agree with dr ray eye about trying trevor on paul, didn’t someone do that, (playing a taller agressive SF on him) against Nash earlier this season and it worked pretty well? I am liking the SF rotation of luke and trevor, that’s a nice combo, lots to work with for match ups.
    anyway, might be worth an experiment tonight, putting trevor on paul.

  16. I’m not sure Kobe could win the MVP award this year (or any other, for that matter). Kobe’s stats are down this year and that will be used against him. His teammates are better and that will be used against him – but not against KG.

    I hate this comparison, but it is a fair one. Kobe is a lot like Barry Bonds. They are/were both the best in their particular game, they both pissed off the sports writers and ‘talking heads’, they both have things in their past that the ‘talking heads’ could hold against them, and they both were viewed from the outside as ‘cancers’ on their individual teams.

    Since the ‘talking heads’ influence a large number of the population, don’t think other players with equally questionable pasts (read Roger Clements) will get any where near the scrutiny these guys get.

    I do not expect Kobe to ever get MVP, regardless what his situation is. There will always be other options available and the haters out there will always take these options.

  17. Craig W,
    “I hate this comparison, but it is a fair one. Kobe is a lot like Barry Bonds”

    Bonds always got the acknowledgement his play deserved, though. 6 (?) MVP awards. Kobe hasn’t.

  18. The big difference between Kobe and Barry Bonds:
    - Kobe has 3 titles, Barry has zero
    - Barry has 7 MVPs, Kobe has zero

    And Craig, I disagree with you about Roger Clemens. That dude is getting absolutely raked over the coals, as he should be.

    While I’m talking about off-topic stuff, I just read that Grant HIll had an appendectomy and is expected to miss about 2 weeks.

  19. The Real Lamar Odom January 9, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Just because his stats are down it shouldn’t hurt him as much. KG’s stats are down as well, yet everyone’s talking about him. True, he brought defense to the team. But Kobe’s doing his thing, too. It may not be as great as what KG is doing, but who didn’t see the Celtics being the best team in the NBA? And who saw the Lakers playing so well with the team they have? I think KG is going to win it, but Kobe is up there too.

  20. Great points by all…

    I’d love to see Kobe get that hardware, if only so he wins 1 in his career. Look at Shaq, he only has 1 (even though Laker fans think he could have won 3-4). It’s a tough award to win, but for Kobe, I know it would mean a lot.

    As for tonight, I agree with Kurt about turning Paul into the scorer. He could get 40 for all I care, as long as the Lakers control the rest of the team and win. I also think that you have to go “under” the screen when playing Paul or trap him hard and rotate. By going under the screen, we give up the J (which Paul has been better at making) but we would hopefully be closing down the lane and not giving up those close baskets to Paul or a rolling Chandler. Also, by going under the screen, we don’t have to pinch as much from the corners and leave MoPete and Peja with those wide open looks. Just my 2 cents.

  21. exhelodrvr & Exick,
    Actually I agree with both you guys. It is just that most ‘talking heads’ think Barry is a crook, as much because they don’t like him as that he was implicated in the steroid scandal. Roger Clements is garnering much more praise and people are ready to come to his defense. And his trainer did finger him, where Bonds’ trainer hasn’t – for whatever reason you want to imagine. Hate, race, envy, whatever.

    Most ‘talking heads’ think Kobe is a crook and a selfish egotist because they don’t like him and he was accused, but not convicted in the Eagle, CO scandal.

    People want simple answers, but I have yet to meet a successful person who was simple. Success takes drive, smarts, focus, and usually a willingness to keep going through all weather. These are not traits that endear you to people who have a deadline and want a 20second soundbite. The fact that these people waste your time when you are trying to perfect your craft is never considered. Some personalities handle this better than others, but we are all tasked with doing the best with what we are given, not sitting around wishing we had something different.

  22. I attended the Warriors game last week against NO and CP3 took over that game when it mattered. The Warriors played stupid ball a lot to put themselves in a hole but were making a run in the 4th after West went out. They cut it to 6 with 6 or 7 left in the game and suddenly Paul just took it upon himself to stop it. Within a few minutes the Nornets had their biggest lead of the night and GSW was completely flummoxed.

    (Side rant: the reason GSW will never get beyond the 7 seed as currently comprised is they just refuse to execute. The first play of the gae Baron smartly posted up Paul, got inside 10 feet and scored easily. That was the only time they went to that all game. Too many other times various players dribbled until they took a shot. Nelson says he’s okay with that, but those were the possessions that led to them being down by 13. If they move the ball and play smart the warriors could beat anybody. In the half court Biedrins is very effective. They have cutters and slashers and shooters and everything else you want. But they squander it byt playing dumb.)

    Anyhoo, the Hornets are good. They may only be dominant at one position, but they are solid wherever they need to be (except maybe the bench). They can defend the paint, they punish help d with good shooting, and they can break you down in a variety of ways. And CP3 gets the most out of every cog. If they stay healthy, they’re for real. I’m excited to see how we do against them.

  23. Everyone needs a dose of reality here on this board. Kobe could care less about the MVP award. Championships, Championships, Championships. You guys understand!

  24. After my rant I have to give kudos to Kevin Ding (OC Register) for a couple of articles all Kobe haters should read. It might give them a little different perspective on this very complex man.
    March 2007
    http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/sports/abox/article_1632413.php

    and the followup column this year
    http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/sports/abox/article_1956078.php

  25. 24, I saw those and may link to them tomorrow, too good to bury in a big preview post.

    23. I don’t think anyone here would trade an MVP for a title, I know Kobe wouldn’t, but he’s getting mentioned in the talk now.

  26. My worry about tonight’s game is that Paul penetrates and draws a couple of quick fouls on AB. Bynum has done a great job staying on the floor this year, but quick PGs are always a problem, but we’re not that deep in the front court right now.

    I think Garnett would get the MVP right now based on ‘best player on the best team’ as well as ‘body of work’ (not supposed to count, but…). If the Celtics slow down (for whatever reason), things could change. Paul probably gets votes for doing the most with the least talent around him, but he’s young, and that usually works against a player. Kobe’s best chance is probably in future years if the team continues to improve, though he’s inevitably going to run into the “but he’s got AB!” argument. But if that’s the worst problem we have, it’s a very good year.

  27. “Kobe has AB” I knwo people will say that….but..shouldnt we be hearing this about KG right now…”but he has Ray Allen and Paul Pierce”. If KG and Boston was playing like this with say…Troy Hudson and Wally…oh wait…he did that already…

    I know Kobe wants a Ring far more than an MVP…in fact I recall him saying that he would rather DPlayer of the Year than MVP…But I just brought this up becasue KG is getting all this love…when he is he has two Superstars along side of him. Kobe (and Chris Paul) do not.

    I know Kobe is hated and KG is beloved…heck…I even bought a KG Boston Jersey (dont tell my Mom…she will kill any and all Boston fans)…and i Know that the ‘talking heads’ make or break this deal…but…

    And I cant belive that Kobe is hated anywhere near the hatred Barry Bonds gets…but maybe I am just that turned off to it…like Giants fans in SF???

  28. alex v,
    You are sooooo right. Jordan wasn’t able to get to the finals until he had help and a championship coach (didn’t know it at the time, but…), however people largely forget that these days. That was also the knock on Wilt and John Elway – two of the greatest athletes to play sports. In a team sport nobody can do it by themselves. Kobe needed Shaq and others, but Shaq also needed Kobe and others equally.

    You are also right in that we have no real problems if MVP is our greatest concern.

  29. Mike in the Mountain West January 9, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I think Kobe has a real shot at MVP especially if he breaks this shooting slump to end the year with a good FG% and has just a couple his I-am-the-master-of-the-universe type games.

    Although with most players, including Kobe, I think the whole making your teammates better argument is really a crock. I think it’s pretty clear that the development of Bynum, Farmar, Sasha, etc. has a hell of a lot more to do with them and their work ethic than it does with Kobe. I’m not saying that Kobe doesn’t make it easier for guys on the court by drawing attention or dishing well, but he was doing all those things last year too. So why are these players better all of a sudden? Because of their own development as players.

    And as for the argument that he motivated them with his rant, well, I think it’s a little ridiculous to be honest. Farmar has always had a reputation for being a gym rat and having an outstanding work ethic. Bynum started working on his conditioning long before Kobe made his remarks over the summer. And Sasha is in a contract year. It’s possible Kobe had some sort of motivating effect but if he did it was small.

    The person who should really get the credit for this teams improvement is Kupchak. He’s the one who put this team together and resisted the loud calls to trade Bynum. He’s also been the architect of the most lopsided trade of the season by getting the best player and shedding salary in the process. If he pulls off another great trade (Kwame + ? for a player that really helps us) I don’t see any one more deserving of Executive of the Year.

  30. A few points:

    * Kurt, I think the only reason that Harlan seems to point at offense more than defense is that (for whatever reason), he’s not taking pace of game into account. You’re looking at points per 100 possessions, he’s looking at points per game. You might say that the increase in points per game is more due to increased pace than increased efficiency, of course.

    * Kobe would naturally prefer a title to an MVP trophy, but it’s a false dilemma. He can win both, after all. And it’s nonsense to say that he doesn’t care about the MVP. He would love the MVP, as would most great players–especially those who already have multiple titles to their name.

    * About Kobe’s D: Anyone who watched last night’s game will recognize this–Kobe was getting beat (or allowing himself to get beat) and then trying to steal the ball (mostly unsuccessfully) reaching around. Might be because of the groin injury he seemed to aggravate on an offensive foul call earlier in the game. It certainly seemed to affect his mobility on defense.

    * Can Jordan get up, or can he? Damn. I love his timing on rebounds. If Kwame could time it like him, he’d get like 16 rpg. (Obligatory Kwame-bashing.)

    * I like Trevor on CP3 much more than I like Sasha on him. Trevor has both speed *and* length on Sasha, and they’ll both be needed. Farmar’s experience on Conley last night showed that he’s just not there yet, defensively. Farmar the offensive player would blow by Farmar the defender 8 times out of 10.

    * Does anyone have a breakdown of how many of the Lakers turnovers are live-ball rather than dead-ball (violations, out-of-bounds, etc.)? Comparisons with last year?

    * Looking forward to tonight’s game. Just hoping the Lakers don’t lay an egg, that’s all.

  31. I like the idea of Javaris going to the D-Fenders. He needs more time on the floor. This is part of the reason the Lakers own their own D-League team. It insures that rookies will get minutes their first year. We’re into the season now, Phil knows the rotations (as much as he ever does) and Javaris is just wasting away on the bench. That does the team, and Crit himself, no good.

    The Lakers established this pattern last year with Farmar. I’d like to see it kept up. That way your rookie players won’t get offended when they get sent down. They’ll know it’s part of the Lakers system.

    Hopefully the Lakers will need to do this every season, as that will mean they don’t have a lottery pick that they must start in his rookie year.

  32. One more point–Mike in the MW (29): Regarding “making your teammates better,” I absolutely agree. That phrase is continually oversold. Great players don’t in my opinion make their teammates better, so much as they allow their teammates to focus on what they’re good at. Great players allow their spot-up shooters to spot up and shoot, their defensive specialists to specialize on defense, their slashers to slash and finish. Those players become more efficient at what they do, but it’s not because they’re intrinsically better; that happens, as you say, in the off-season and practice. It’s because they aren’t expected to create their own opportunities as much. If these guys were then unloaded onto some non-great-player-endowed team, they’d revert to their own ordinary selves, by and large.

  33. Speaking of quitters…

    It sounds like Riles is checking over his parachute. Wouldn’t want any holes in that one.

  34. I think Kobe will need one of his amazing stretches of games to catapult himself into the MVP race. Like one of those stretches with multiple 50+ point games or something. Otherwise Lebron and Chris Paul are having more historical years with their numbers, while KG has the record. If Lebron wins and doesn’t get 50+ wins, it’d put the lie to everybody who said kobe didn’t get it the last two years. Personally I’m leaning towards Chris Paul because he’s been amazing, has the stats, is crutial to his team’s success and is on pace for 50+ wins. If Kobe reminds the world of his superhumanity and our record holds through the brutal month ahead, he may be catapulted back ahead.

    I do think he absolutely cares about being MVP, though he’d take a title (and likely Finals MVP) before. When someone asked him what it would take for him to win MVP he said without a hesitation “50 games,” which says to me he’s followed the arguments the last few years…

  35. There are many ways to make your teammates better. Kobe, for all his flash, does so rather subtly, and his effects are even more obscured due to his character and our perception of him.

    Great scorers, by definition, make teammates better by hogging the opposing team’s attention (as well as the ball). Of course in an ideal world, the best would be devastating without the ball even, as the ‘threat’ of him getting the ball will begin to matter.

    Also, hard workers(and those who think each and every game matters) are also those that make teammates better. Hard work and hustle is leading by example, and if that doesn’t rub off on your teammates, it’s their fault, as is not converting on good chances are.

    Kobe does both of these fairly well, although his shooting % could improve. Kobe also plays some defense (nowhere near Scottie or MJ levels, though), so ‘making his teammates better’ is not really something he lacks.

    However, KG does all of the things mentioned above PLUS his team has improved far more than Kobe’s. Sure having Paul and Ray is probably better than having Bynum and LO, but the way I see it, KG is the better candidate.

  36. The Dude Abides January 9, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Interesting…so far the official scorer gave Kobe’s blocked shot to Lamar, and credited one of Andrew’s blocks to Lamar. I wonder what game he’s watching.

  37. I think Crittenden could be a DWade type of player. When I watch him, that who he reminds me of.
    Not really a point guard, not just a shooting guard.

  38. geesh, poor ariza, he got hit on the side of his head and he still had to be aware of the fast break coming his way and get out of the way. haha.

  39. That’s niiiiiiiiiiiiice (quoting Laker commentator Stu Lantz on KCAL9). Back to back? How about back to back to back to back? Hopefully it will continue.

  40. The Dude Abides January 9, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Being a stats wonk, I wonder how a viewer can inform the official scorer that he has made a couple of mistakes. I wonder also if there is a self-correcting process. Not very important in the larger scheme of things, but it still bugs me. That was a great block Kobe made, and he got no credit for it. Great block by Andrew too, but it really looked like he blocked an alley-oop pass and not a shot. Anyway, Lamar got officially credited with blocks on both plays. Argghhhh!

  41. I think as James said, it might take an extended run of exceptional games for Kobe to win the MVP. Anyone who believes the MVP doesn’t matter to Kobe, well I’d say perhaps they also think that the T’wolves will be in the Western Conference finals this year. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t put team first-I believe he does. But that trophy must mean something to such a talented and motivated guy. Still, I think, as all-around as Kobe’s game is-his scoring is down a bit, I believe his other numbers are too but I’m not sure……though perhaps if the Lakers get to the 3 or 4 seed, maybe he could get it. Still though, I think the sportswriters are falling all over themselves praising the Celts (I’m not necessarily criticizing them for recognizing KG) and really to me, Chris Paul is perhaps more influential for his team. And there’s that guy in Cleveland, Leborn…what’s his name? I don’t know that he will get it this year but…ehh…anyway.

    Re: JCritt possibly going down to the D-league, interesting notion that he might be crestfallen that he might be sent down. That’s certainly possible. More than that though, as well as he’s playing, he’s sort of elbowing out Sasha for his minutes now and I love this guy’s game. I like Sasha too but I think we can see why Mitch liked this guy. And I think once he’s established himself in the rotation, he might be difficult to dislodge. Just incidentally, any info on how he did react on falling apparently lower than he would have liked in the draft?

  42. 36. Muddy – I think the word for that is combo guard.

    On Kobe being MVP – let the Lakers win 55 games and let the serious discussion begin.

    On KG – I love the guy, I think he deserves the MVP as much as Kobe. They are just winners and plays with all their hearts and sould EVERY game. The one I can’t stand in Paul Pierce. Man, that guy is annoying! What has he achieved again? Oh yeah, something Kobe cannot achieve – the worst record of the conference.

    On the game – Its not quite the same Hornets or should I say its not the same Lakers. We are 4-0 in January Laker fans…

  43. An Ode to (another) Laker Victory..

    Talk about revenge..
    Killing a playoff team? Wow.
    Best part? Goo’s Birthday!

  44. hahaha

    nice work, Goo.

    Happy birthday!

    I’ll be honest, I was a little worried about this one tonight. Nice game all around.

  45. Lakers guard Peja.
    Chris Paul takes twenty foot shots.
    Lakers beat Hornets.

    (Where are my beatnik snaps?)

    Some statistics to get excited about:

    54.9% overall shooting
    Only 8 Turnovers!!!
    Turnover/Assist ratio of over +3
    Only allow 80 points on 37% shooting.

    Way to close out on defense!!!

  46. WOW! statement game (against a rising power) and payback (for their worst home loss of the season). I can now safely say this laker team is coming together. just like how phil wants to run a team, a well oiled machine running on all cylinders. They now have a system in place, everyone is on the same page and everyone has a definitve role. after the 2004 season (start of rebulding) i cant recall when they won some back to back sets. Yea baby! this is the triangle and phil’s system at work!!! GO LAKERS!!!

  47. I’d like everyone on the blog to remember it’s a long commenting season. We’re doing well so far, but we’re not even halfway through. There are still a lot of great blogs out there we need to comment with: Celtics Blog, Detroit Bad Boys, Pounding the Rock, Golden State of Mind, The Rising Suns. We need to stay focus and execute comments one game at a time.

    I, for one, will only be happy when we’re commenting on a Lakers’ championship.

  48. A real beatdown against a hot team. They stayed on the shooters, limited their turnovers and let Paul try to beat them single handed. Paul had only 5 assists, Peja was a non-factor and the Lakers won the battle of the boards and the bench.

    Sweeeeet!!!!!!!!!!!

  49. Over on the Yahoo box score, what does “BS” and “BA” stand for? Anybody know?

  50. BS is a block. BA is a “Block against”… when the player gets blocked.

  51. BS = Blocked Shots

    BA = Blocked Attempts

    Yahoo is great cause they display the +/- ratios.

  52. are the lakers now “officially” on a roll???

  53. Thanks sfJayp and 81 Witness.

    Man the Lakers sure are playing well.

  54. Just to add to the Kobe for MVP debate. A look at the conferences should put Kobe over KG. All 8 seeds in the west have 20+ wins and all are within 4 games of each other. With Utah and Houston the 9th and 10th seeds at 19 wins. Nobody in the East (outside of DET, BOS, and ORL) have 19 wins. If Kobe has the Lakers in the top brackets in the conference that is so deep, he “should” get the nod for MVP over KG, unless the C’s go 73-9 (which I think they will fall short of by at least 10 games).

    Kobe plays in such a strong conference and has made a team many projected to miss the playoffs into one of the most dangerous/deep teams in the West.

    But because of politics, he’ll probably never win it.

  55. Put ‘em down in the 1st and keep your foot down. Loved the stats on the 2nd unit players.

    You all discussing Kobe and the MVP award miss the point. This award is one the sportswriters give. Part of the award is the popularity of the player with sportswriters. This is where Kobe will fall down, not any statistics he may or may not have. Kobe is always a great story when times are slow and Kobe critical stories are best of all. Remember Wilt’s lament, “Nobody roots for Goliath.”

  56. Kurt, I’m sorry but your site is getting boring. I used to scream
    at the TV and drink too much watching the Lakers fumble away
    games. And we all tried to figure out how to fix the myriad of
    problems. Now there’s no suspense. They make all their shots,
    they lead all the way and Kwame catches the ball most of the time.
    I know it’s not your fault, but there’s no excitment any more.
    I feel lost.

  57. Are we there yet?
    It seems these days many of us get hyped up by our Lakers prospects but what’s for real? We could all agree that we are definitely better team than last year, far more consistent without Smushy, playing team ball, Bynums’ emergence and the calm and confidence Fisher brings. Just three months back I wouldn’t have thought that the Lakers had a chance of getting anything better than a 7-8 seed and maybe being at least a good sparring partner for the Suns/Spurs. As good as the Lakers are today, and as good as I think we could be comes playoff time I still fail to see us making it all the way (think beating Spurs, Celtics, Pistons in best of 7). So, a natural question arises – what do the Lakers need to be that championship team? Write off this year as a learning experience and hope next one will be the ONE, see how far we’ll go this season and then maybe reshuffle a few pieces in the offseason, or get someone now before the Feb deadline??? I think that leaving the team as it is and looking forward to next season will be an exercise in futility. Do you really think that Radmanovic, Vujacic, Walton, will get much better with time? I think we don’t need a bunch of average players, but something special, that has proven its value, I am thinking of somebody who can get in crunch time and score a basket or block or steal a ball (a bit younger version of Horry ?). Any ideas?

  58. 56.

    I concour. How DARE they play ball the right way?

    I didn’t even get drunk tonight- HOW DARE THEY CURE MY ALCOHOLISM!!!!!!

    I kid cause I love :)

  59. Great article on Yahoo about Byron Scott. I’m glad to see the Showtime Lakers doing so well (Magic, Worthy, Scott, Kareem, Cooper)!

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AmbbqQPbR9rtfPf6YPfjrJ85nYcB?slug=aw-byron010908&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

  60. 56. I’ve talked to Tonia Harding about steps some of her friends can take to bring the Lakers back down to earth so we have some stuff to rip apart.

  61. 57. Enjoy this, there are not enough times as a sports fan where your team is on a roll like this.

    And I don’t think keeping this team basically in the same shape is an exercise in futility — Bynum is 20 and will be better next year, as will Farmar and Crittenton. Radmanovic and Walton are quality role players, they don’t have to get a lot better. But the bottom line is enjoy the journey, it is not just about the end destination.

  62. Lakers in N’awlins
    Kwame and Luke nice nights
    Gumbo tastes awesome

  63. Great road trip. Not trailing once in back to back games is pretty impressive.

    Mitch really deserves some high praise for the Ariza trade, that was a terrific in-season move. Trevor seems to have a positive impact on the game every single night, something that you just couldn’t say about Mo or Cook.

    Also, very encouraged to see Luke playing the way he’s capable of.

  64. Kurt,
    Tonya Harding’s reference is maybe a bit too Hard on me, no? I would have felt much better if it were about Greenspan and (ir)rational exuberance … Nevertheless, would you rather have the Lakers as they are for the rest of the season? As much as I enjoy watching the Lakers being on roll this year, I’d rather see this purple and gold train arrive at station champions then end up spinning wheels in the marshes of “a very good and promising team”.

  65. 64. The Harding reference was a joke aimed at the post above yours (56 not 57). Nothing personal intended.

    “Nevertheless, would you rather have the Lakers as they are for the rest of the season?”

    Compared to what? I don’t want to see a move for the sake of “needing to add something.” I’d rather keep this roster than make a bad move. If another GM decides to give up something quality for Kwame’s expiring deal, then take it. But the step from where the Lakers are to contender could easily be screwed up by doing something because you feel you have to win it all this season.

    And, most importantly, don’t miss the overall point — live in the moment. Bask in the wins. It is about the journey not the destination. Have fun watching an exciting team come together.

  66. what can we get for Kwame? If we dont trade him, do we pick him up again in the off season?

  67. Anony, at this point Mitch is at his best (or worst) because he is not obliged to do a deal and he actally doesn’t have to. The Laker needs are going to be solved (or not) in time. Meaning, Kurt is right. Enjoy in the moment and TIME WILL TELL if this team will be picking up championships like picking Apples.

    The “trademeister” in me still think we can improve via trade… we just have to be creative enough. Like the Ariza trade… it doesn’t have to be someone with superstar status and salary… its about finding the right player to add. Otherwise, keep Kwame’s expiring and re-up him for less. I’m sure he will be quite useful for 3-4m eh? The remaning cash will be used to re-up Ronny Turiaf.

    Rumor: Philly is said to be looking hard at Ronny.

  68. I’m beginning to notice a trend of the Lakers shooting an outrageous percentage and having runaway victories, even on the road. I could get used to this…

  69. lakerz are the best January 10, 2008 at 3:14 am

    dude think about it…if Bynum is on the bench whose gonna fill that position upif they trade kwami nobody is gonna come out of the bench as the center n Chris Mihn is injured…Ronny can fill it up but against big center i don’t think he can do anything and they need a PF to fill up when LO is on the bench resting.

    kobe should win the MVP a lot of good players after the game or on the game always comment about kobe getting all the attention and oppening up for other players…and the celtics game showed how much KG needs Paul and Rays help…they lose to freakn charlotte bobcats come on and its because Paul couldn’t score and Ray was injured and stil KG did got his stats but they didn’t win…and remember KOBE can carry his team by himself as shown last year him scoring 81…KOBE’s scoring is down becaus his assist is better and everyone is scoring so they dont need his scoring they just need his pressence…he should win it…GO LAKERS

  70. I didn’t see the game, but I heard a bit of the postgame summary. Then I looked at the box score: pretty boring. Koby only got 19, Andrew got 17, but “only” 9 rebounds. Fish lost his touch. Only 6 points. Lamar barely made it into double figures. Walton had 14, but only 1 rebound.

    The bench was much the same. Only Trevor was in double figures–at 10. Kobe Carl had 5 in 3 minutes–which was 1 more than Javaris in 15, but I smelled garbage time there.

    I switched to the Hornets. Oh oh, Paul had 32 and West had 19. Their #2 scorer tied our #1 scorer, and made as many rebounds as Andrew. Bad sign. They shot and made more free throws. They made 4 more turnovers than we did–but they only made 12.

    So what’s missing? Why didn’t they win–or at least make it close?

    THEY ONLY SCORED 80 POINTS!!!

    I guess having two recent UCLA products on the team is rubbing off. The stat sheet looked like a “Ben Howland” game: we got 7 steals to their 2; 7 blocks to their 1; 25 assists to their 12.

    Their 3 point shooting was 1 for 11.

    What’s that?

    Their 3 point shooting was 1 for 11.

    Maybe Peja was hurt?

    No, he played.

    Oh.

    Our offense was pretty average?

    true.

    Their MVP candidate totally whomped our MVP candidate in points scored by 13–and we won by 29?

    That’s what the score sheet says.

    So, it wasn’t points we scored–it was points they didn’t score?

    Now you’re getting warm. On offense, they shot 36%. We shot almost 55%.

    I don’t think the shooting percentage difference was an accident–just a bunch of “little things” That Memphis coach, was he named Macaroni? He said something like that to his team, according to a Memphis blog. The Grizz were fighting back, had just made a mini run–and then Kwame Brown beat everyone back downcourt, caught a full court pass, and made a layup–broke their spirit.

    All the little things. That’s an interesting way to win a game by 29.

  71. Winning such games just spoils you to assume Milwaukee will be massacred on Friday at Staples.

    The Lakers have found a groove with a balanced starting five that was supposed to be THE best starting 5 at the start of the season. With the exception of Drew, this was essentially the same team last year that went on a 26-13 record. The difference is, this year won’t be a fluke. That’s perhaps the difference of a consummate professional in Fish compared to the bum Smush.

    The Lakers are looking more like a real team out there that does not need the bench to play like crazy just to win it for them. Remember there was a point in time where it was the bench pulling away and the starters giving away the lead. It could only last so long until Phil incorporated the vets to establish the team.

    To those that thought Mitch COULD HAVE done better job in the Fish signing, extend your apologies now. 1-2m would be insulting.

  72. We are still the 2nd youngest team in the NBA. That means there are going to be nights we pull out our hair. However, it looks like there will be far fewer nights like that (anyone remember the Celtics???) that I could have imagined at the start of the season.

    Remember San Antonio drafted to get to the top and only added fringe players via trade to reach championship position. Their players developed within their system, not elsewhere. Since we drafted a big man out of high school instead of after 4yrs of college, it is not surprising that AB took longer to develop than TD. I really don’t understand the need to trade for “one more piece.” That may be like an artist adding one more brush stroke to the Mona Lisa and screwing up the entire painting. Part of the skill of personnel and team evaluation is to know when to stop meddling. Are we there yet???

  73. Kurt –

    You need to shout at your friends at Daily Dime and True Hoop. No coverage of the Lakers going to NO and stomping a West force by 29?

    That is some raw, disrespect.

  74. the guy formerly known as lamar odom January 10, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Beautiful……….just plain………….beautiful!
    We cracked the 108 mark on Hollinger’s rankings! I know many of you don’t pay too much attention to those rankings, but I think they’re a good measure of how good a team is. We’re creeping up on Boston and Detroit! PLUS……..we have had a tougher schedule than they have. Good times………….very good times to be a Laker fan.

  75. All in all, really happy with the Lakers victory last night. However, we have to take it one game at a time.

    There have been three games that I think you guys can all agree we could AND SHOULD have won and they just slipped away. @MIL, @CLE, @ GS. I surely hope revenge will be on the Lakers mind tomorrow night against the Bucks.

  76. got a new nickname for Ronnie…with his new braids, doesn’t he look like…
    PREDATOR

  77. while shopping at south coast plaza on tuesday night, I ended up seeing Chris Mihm at Nordstroms with a woman (gf, sister, cousin, i dunno). I didn’t feel like intruding on his personal life to say hello, but the thing that got me was that he wasn’t home watching the game. To me it illustrated how different pro basketball is from youth league games. If i was injured, I still wanted to go and watch my team play. He’s injured and he’s out shopping during the game against memphis (although, in his defense, he didn’t exactly look thrilled to be there). I’m sure he put in his work during the day and did some rehab but it’s odd to think he’s not a fan of his own team as well. I understand he’s in a very different position than us fans (how many of us would watch our coworkers do their thing if we were out sick?), but it’s still weird.

  78. nomuskles,
    The Basketball Jones is asking forstories about fan run-ins with the NBA players. Maybe you should write them an email or give them a call.

  79. i’ll look into it.

  80. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom January 10, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    so much for all the lamar kwame bashing. where’s the chris mihm bashing when we need it? he was out all of last season and again he’s injured? give me a bleeping break!!! why does he get a break from the bashing????!!! trade the fool!