Enjoy The Ride

Kurt —  January 10, 2008

There are just too few times as a sports fan when you can feel like you are seeing something special come together before your eyes. When the present looks good and the future even better. When young players are developing like you hoped and the veterans are both leading them and energized by them.

We Lakers fans can be a spoiled bunch at times. We can look at this current roster and only think, “they aren’t going to win a championship this season with this group, what do we have to do to get a title?” We start to obsess over trades or envy players other teams have.

But while the title is the goal, the journey is the fun part. This team (as constructed) will not win a title this season, and that’s okay. You can see a team that can challenge for one in the near future, and the rush to make it one right now is more likely to lead to mistakes and failure than success.

Be patient. And enjoy what we get to see nightly:

• A team playing an up-tempo, exciting style. The Lakers are often pushing the ball up, Bynum and the other bigs are looking for drags (running the high screen and roll early in the possession before the defense can set or get the matchups it wants) and there is an element of unpredictability in the offense that was lacking for years.

• A young center who is growing in confidence every game. Did you see what he did to Tyson Chandler (one of the game’s best defensive centers) in the second quarter? He backed him down on the block, pushing him to the right like Bynum wanted to spin into the middle, then when Chandler started to overplay that side Bynum swung back for a little left handed jump hook that went in cleanly. Forget last year, Bynum would not have had the confidence to make that move at the start of the season. Early on this season he was being ignored, and that was leading to a lot of dunks and lobs and easy baskets for him, which started to build that confidence. Now teams are adjusting, they are taking away some of those simple buckets, but Bynum now has the confidence in his game to show off more of his repertoire. And do things like back down Tyson Chandler.

• A veteran point guard who makes smart choices. This was a sight for sore eyes after the last couple years.

• Two young point guards who are growing and learning behind that veteran, and are bringing incredible energy off the bench.

• A deep bench that puts pressure on other team’s second units with defense and sharp shooting,

• Ball movement in the half-court offense. The extra pass to the open man is a pretty thing.

• And still the best player in the game. Every game he still does something that we can take for granted because we see it so often, but should make your jaw drop. Last night in the second quarter (I think) Kobe had the ball at the three-point line straight away with the clock running down and Mo Pete right up on him. Kobe made a jab step that Pete didn’t really bite on and Kobe went up with the three anyway, with Pete in his face. Nothing but net. You could hear the Hornet crowd deflate. I get emails from other bloggers after Lakers games against their team and universally they glow about Kobe, just marveling at what he can do.

We need to step back a little and marvel at it to. And just enjoy this ride.

Kurt

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83 responses to Enjoy The Ride

  1. It’s a thing of beauty really.

  2. I wonder just how Kareem feels. This is the kind of rush teachers get when they see their young students start to blossom in their classroom. You can’t buy that kind of thing with money – just sweat.

  3. Amen!

    It really is a team to be proud of. I love the chemsitry this team has. To think that at the beginning of the year that this was to be a chaos! I am so thankful for this team. A joy to watch!

  4. I just can’t get over how refreshing it is to see the Lakers exhibiting this kind of chemistry. They genuinely look like they’re having fun out there (even Kobe!).

  5. Maybe Shaq would be willing to come back(kidding). I am sure Miami would dump him for nothing if salaries matched.

    I am interested to see what Kobe does the closer he gets to opting out. I would love to see him ask for a renegotiation of his current deal that keeps him a Laker for life.

  6. This is my first post, but Ive been reading all season and I love the site Kurt. It is the best fan site I seen on the net. There are some very knowledgeable fans here…very refreshing. But I absolutely had to response to THIS post, I agree with you 100%! This is a fun ride and I don’t think alot fans are enjoying it for what it is. I am enjoying this team as much as I loved the 97 squad, which I though was the fastest, deepest, most athletic Lakers team I had ever seen with my own eyes. Even thou there was plenty of heartache, to watch the core of that team grow and mature into a dynasty was very fulfilling, and I truly believe that history IS repeating itself. I think some fans fall into the trap of wanting what they don’t have instead of appreciating what they do.

  7. Kurt,

    Very well said.

    Not sure if I’m the only one who this happens to, but once about every three games Bynum does something, blocks a shot, controls a rebound, executes a nice post move, and I am floored because I immediately remember the very limited amount of time he has playing organized ball on the court. The kid played something like 32 high school games, EVER, and hardly got on the floor his first season. His growth is phenomenal and having this sort of impact is completely off my expectations chart.

    I completely agree that it’s a great ride to be on and it’s making me almost forget Radmanovic’s contract. Almost.

  8. Watching this team really does remind me a lot of watching the Eddie Jones/NVE/Elden Campbell/Vlade Divac/Club Ced teams from the mid 90s, and then later how they jumped way up once they added Shaq (and Kobe in a very minor role at first). Watching the Showtime Lakers and then the Shaq-Kobe-Phil championship teams, as well as the post Magic teams and the post Shaq teams that were not contenders in any sense, I really think that watching Laker teams that are right on the cusp with a bright future are the most fun of all.

    When the Lakers are clearly the best team in the league, there’s not as much satisfaction in each win because it’s expected, and each loss is more painful because it’s an upset. And when the team is just a bad team, even a good win can ring hollow because you know it’s ultimately pretty meaningless, while a loss just feels like more of the same. But when the team is in a position like it is now, wins over teams like Memphis or especially New Orleans just are so satisfying because they have real meaning to a fan. At the same time a loss to the Celtics isn’t quite so painful because you know it’s probably to be expected.

    I for one am truly enjoying the ride, just as I did in the mid-90s. The potential for dominance in some ways is more enjoyable and satisfying than actual dominance.

  9. as long as we’re listing some highlight moments from last night, (or recent games) how about Trevor ariza last night on the length of the court pass where he caught it on a flat our run, turned the corner and dunked when ANYONE else would have run out of real estate. that was some nice footwork and hands and leaping/finishing ability!!!
    another highlight for me was the Andrew block and control of a CP3 layup.
    did anyone else see Ronnie speaking with Trevor after he got hit in the eye, (on the sidelines, during a timeout), and they were pointing at someone, looked like Ronnie said “want me to get him for you?” and trevor was nodding “nah, I’ll get him myself”
    made me remember what a great teammate Ronnie is.

  10. 9. I just love what Ariza brings, and like I said before I think the combo of him and Walton make a good three, with different players for different matchups.

    And this may be basketball not hockey, but it’s good to have an enforcer.

  11. 10

    totally agree with you Kurt. Rick Fox was the 2000 enforcer, and he did an awesome job of it too.

    I miss Fox- what on earth is he up to nowadays?

  12. 11. He’ s acting. And he shows up to Laker games. I think every time he goes to STAPLES, the crowd gives him a standing ovation.

  13. Foxie is in the movie business, surprise, surprise, and he attends a number of Laker games – one just last week.

  14. Those teams in the late ninties were very fun to watch but I got greater satisfaction from beating Portland in 2000, SA in 2001 and 2004 plus the Sac win in 2002. That said, the point made regarding making a move too soon in order to force a champioship is a valid one. If the Lakers had Eddie and Elden rather then Glen Rice, I think PJ would have put those two in positions to succeed and the team would have been better in the long run. Also, running Nick off becuase Shaq was frustrated and didn’t like the “Cancun!” joke was a bit silly and again, PJ would have used Nick to his ability. B. Shaw and Harper were just fine but the Mitch Richmond and Isaiah Rider spots might have been better filled by any of those guys who were moved too soon.

    BTW, I am very, very, very happy about bringing Ariza in and happy that it looks like our boy Evans has found a nitch with Orlando. He’s doing for them what he brought in for us and that trade seems to be the perfect one for all involved. Cook’s role hasn’t changed any and he’s still getting paid. The difference a few months makes. Now Kupchek and Ainge look like geniuses.

  15. I can’t wait to see this in person when I come to LA the end of January.

  16. Ok, i’ll give Kwame a little love. how aboutthat little jump hook in the second (I think). I feel like Kwame is making the same mistakes, but for the first time he looks relaxed. I think not having to be THE center for Kobe will be good for him and I finally feel like he may actually get better. Not good, but better.

  17. Sorry for the long post. I get wordy when excited. Feel free to scroll down (way down…).

    I think we all recognize that this year’s hot start is distinguishable from last year’s, despite the almost identical records, but I dug into some numbers to try and explain what is different. Random observations:

    Stats from the team’s first 31 games last year (through December 31, after which the injuries really started to mount, even if they kept winning for a few more games):

    • Record: 20-11
    • 18 homes games; 13 road games (15 of first 20 at home)
    • One of the easiest strengths of schedule in the league
    • Points per game: 103.7; points allowed per game: 100.7
    • Points differential: +3.0 (good for about 6th in the league at the time)
    • Kobe 40 point games: 5 (including three 50 point games)

    Stats through 34 games this year:
    • Record: 23-11
    • 18 home games; 16 road games (more balanced)
    • 4th hardest strength of schedule in the league
    • 107.5 points per game; 100.8 points allowed per game
    • 3rd best differential, best in western conference (+6.8)
    • Kobe 40 point games: none since opening night; no 50 point games

    Comparing season wide stats from last year to this year:
    • Point guard. 2007 team PER, PER allowed: (12.0, 17.0), -5.0 differential, 4th worst in the league; 2008: (18.4, 14.2), 5th best differential in the league
    • Center. 2007: (16.5 PER, 18.4 allowed), 8th worst differential; 2008: (19.4, 14.4), 4th best differential
    • Shooting guard. 2008: best PER and PER differential in the league
    • Rebounding. 2007: 18th in rebounding differential; 2008: 7th best differential
    • FG% allowed (a key defensive stat): 2007: 18th (46.09%); 2008: 3rd (43.68%)
    • Kobe 40+ point games. 2007: 18 (once ever 4-5 games); 2008: none since opening night
    • Kobe’s minutes per game. 2007: 41; 2008: 36 (3rd lowest of his career, behind only his 2 developmental years)
    • Team net PER differential (adding the PER differential at the 5 positions). 2007: -1.8; 2008: +12.7 (top 4 in the league)

    The comparison could go on and on, looking at bench points, games with multiple players in double figures, offensive and defensive efficiency, points in the paint scored and allowed, etc.

    Big picture thoughts:

    This year’s hot start is radically different and much more legitimate than last years. We know that from what we see, but the numbers bear it out. This year, we have a point differential and net team PER that matches our record, we’ve played a balanced home/road schedule, we’ve played one of the hardest schedules in the league, we’ve beaten up on western conference playoff teams, we’ve had more balance and less reliance on Kobe, etc., etc. Additionally, our weaknesses have become strengths. We have the 5th best PG production (looking at combined offensive and defensive efficiency) in the league and 4th best center production; we have a deep bench; we are saving Kobe for the playoffs; we are a good (not great) defensive team, and so on. There is just no way to adequately describe what it means in terms of bottom line points gained and saved to have Fisher instead of Smush, and Bynum (this year’s) instead of Kwame. I expect we’ll see even more statistical improvement with Bynum’s continued development, Odom being back at his natural position, and the arrival and integration of Ariza.

    While much has changed since last year, the obvious explanation is Bynum. He has the 12th highest individual PER differential in the league, with a +10.5 (Kobe is 7th at +11.9). This stat is particularly meaningful because it distinguishes “stat stars” that put up numbers inefficiently and/or can’t play defense from those who really affect ballgames (call it the Stephon Marbury/Zach Randolph/Knicks rule). He balances the offense, forcing bigs to stay home and opening up cutting lanes and room for penetrators. He forces teams to shoot jump shots, shifting the points in the paint dynamic radically in our favor (last year we gave up the 4th most points in the paint and were -1.6 net). He scores at the 2nd most efficient rate in the league (behind only Biedrins, who doesn’t have near his usage rate). He rebounds at a top 10 rate and clears out the lane for Odom to clean up himself (note how when a shot goes up Bynum searches for a body to box out, rather than running to the rim or ball — the anti-Eddy Curry). He clearly has room to go, but he is already affecting the game as a top 20 player. Hopefully, he is conditioned to sustain this.

    I agree that we are not a championship team as presently constructed, but I think we are a rather small move away from being so (something like Kwame for Kurt Thomas), and will be right there with everyone else next year. It’s a great time to be a fan. Sorry again for the length.

  18. What a great game last night!

    I am certainly enjoying this ride. And honestly…why cant they compete for the Championship this year? We got 2 wins over the Suns..we have beaten everyone else too in the West (I think). Boston took us out for sure…but…they are vulernable…they lost to the Cats last for pete sake…and it wasnt Bostons “smothering” defense that routed the lakers…nobody could make a shot…even wide open shots…thats not defense…that is not having your head in the game…and by the end of the Season…and a cahrge thru the Western Conference…I think their heads would certainly be in the right palce then.

    I dont know that any other pieces are needed…I really think this squad can do it…maybe I am crazy…maybe they do need a bit more maturity…but they keep playing like this…on both ends of the floor….sky is the limit.

    And I dont think Mitch looks any better or worse…Its was the Buss Kid that didnt want Bynum to go last year…not Mitch…

  19. Kurt- great point and a great post.

    The thing I like about Bynum is that he is not only working hard to improve physically, he’s also doing the mental work, studying game films and taking advantage of what he’s learned to use against opponents. (I’d love to know whether that’s driven by coaches, other players (there’s a lot of BB IQ on this team) or just his own natural drive.)

    The only bad thing is that he seems to have read the section in the Lakers Players Handbook that instructs them never to say anything interesting in interviews (section title “Clichés are your Friends”).

  20. I don’t think we’re capable of winning the title either. But there’s no reason we can’t get to the Western Conference finals or even to the NBA Finals.

    Plus we’re only one player away from becoming a very, very good team. I like Kwame Brown’s defense (sometimes), but he’s not an impact player most games because he’s only better than average on one end of the floor and a turnover, momentum killing liability on the other. His expiring contract represents a golden opportunity to make the next step.

  21. I wonder wat the 2004 Pistons fans were thinking thru 34 games while no one in the NBA had any idea they were this good… fun Q/A to do with a Pistons blogger…

  22. *Reed, on point again.

    *Kurt, the best thing about this whole thing is going from the depths of the off-season to what we are accomplishing now. The skies were eternally gray, now they are open with shades of forum blue…

    *I know that we are not *Championship Contenders* right now. There are too many unanswered questions about what this team will be in the playoffs. But, if this team just stays on the course it is now, we have a real chance to beat any team. I say this only because *we* have Kobe and Phil….and the only player coach duo in that same class is Duncan and Pop.

  23. This post is great because all of us feel this way and I know I am not the only who reads everyone elses post that I get excited and remember the plays/moments that everyone is talking about. This is a great team. My buddy comes over and watches a bunch of Lakers game and he says he has to come more often, I am even getting him addicted(he’s a big football fan). One moment I wont forget is the dunk Ariza did on Hill, not only because it was a great play but I believe afterwards when Ariza went to the bench Kareem gave him a hard high five and a look of pure intesity. The young guys are a blast, Bynum seems to be playing better and better each week(lucky for me I got him on my fantasy team along with Kobe). It is a long season with many games to go so who knows how the season will end up but this ride is nice, with flag waving on the side of my car.

  24. I’m not an expert but I thought Bynum’s screen roll defense was very active last night.

  25. this is a great blog. as a diehard lakers fan I got real excited after the great start last year, and was extremely disappointed after the collapse. Looking at last year’s squad vs. this year’s squad I find it hard to believe there is even a possibility for it to happen again. Not to say we will continue this pace throughout the entire season, any team goes through slumps and I doubt the Lakers will be an exception, but the team has shown a tremendous ability to bounce back this year. After going 7-6 we have gone 16-5! The pickup of Fisher was hugely underrated by everyone in the offseason. People liked the idea of him coming in because of the Kobe situation. While that was a good reason to bring him in, he has also had a positive influence on the entire team, which is part of the reason for the great chemistry so far this season. If Bynum doesn’t get cocky and slack off with his conditioning and training, he will only get better through this season. I’m fine with Lamar Odom doing what he is doing because it was clear over the last few years he wasn’t the right fit with kobe for a scoring duo. Let him fill the stat sheet in a much less-relied on role he is playing now. Lookin good fellas

  26. Reed! Post on Brotha’!

    The longer the better… Better yet… start a blog :)

    I really enjoy reading your commentary.

  27. The thing I love about these wins is that the Lakers didn’t lose their composure after they got embarrassed in the Celtics game (in more ways than one). That tells you a lot about your team…and if the Warriors can do it…why can’t we get to the WCF?

  28. If you guys go on espn.com on the front page they have a lot of NBA coverage about big men and just below the top story there is a podcast” Dish:411 on Bynum”. It’s pretty good to hear. At times I feel I might beings seeing things or expecting things because I am a Lakers fan but Chris Broussard answers a lot of questions about Bynum and about Kobe. If you have 15 minutes to kill or want to kill, *coughWORKcough*, defintely check it out.

  29. The Dude Abides January 10, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    27 anoni: I think you meant the Jazz. The one thing I see about this team in relation to the other elites is that we are A LOT younger. I think the six elite teams in the NBA this year in addition to the Lakers are Boston, Detroit, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Dallas. The Spurs and Suns are barely hanging on to their health, and Boston is one Ray Allen serious injury from losing its elite status. We have enough depth to absorb a moderate injury bug, and Kobe and Lamar are playing fewer minutes. I think the Lakers will get a top 3 seed in the West, with the 1st seed not out of the question. There has been a steady improvement from two-week period to two-week period all season.

  30. UCSBShaw,
    If you go to the Laker website you can get calendar shots for your screen background. January’s is Ariza’s dunk over Hill. I’ve got it on my machine.

  31. I just found this site via ESPN/True Hoop and I’m glad I did. I live in the SF bay area and have few to talk with about my Laker pride. God, I hate Warriors bandwagon fans. Great site and great community, keep it up.

    Bynum and Farmar are definitely going to help in ushering the new Lakers era!

  32. awesome post, reed.

  33. Great post Reed, always nice to hear your thoughts. I also went through the same statistical differences between last years start and this years start and noticed the same trends.

    This is definitely not last years team, but a few injuries can have the same effect, so I am hoping for a healthy season and a healthy playoffs.

    I can’t wait to get past February that road trip still scares me.

  34. The one thing, or person that has made a differrence this year is the trade for Trevor Ariza. He has been the type of player we’ve been needing, he is for Kobe what James Worthy was Magic.

  35. 31. My thoughts exactly. I was in LA for only three years, but those were mid 1999-2002!! Have been a Lakers fan since remotely.

    Kurt, I couldn’t agree more about Kobe. One of these years he is going to start declining, and we will all kick ourselves for not appreciating his play a little more when we had the chance.

  36. Yep, nice to watch.

    Now, in order to reach the WCF or contend (besides trading Odom or Kwame, but we don’t get what we need in return, so let’s just drop it), I think we only need to do one thing,,, Play better defense.

    While we are certainly better and “maybe” a good defensive team, we have a lot to improve, specially on the high pick’n roll. And to improve your defense you don’t need better players, you just have to make these players believe the team will be significantly better. So, let’s not start celebrating yet… We’re playing ok, but let’s see if this rolls past that killer road trip and the all-star game.

    If we come out of the road trip with 66% wins and get through the all-star game without injuries, then I’ll raise my expectations even more… For now, let’s just enjoy

    PS: Really nice to see a player like Bynum boxing out. Good job by the coaches.

  37. Boy, and let’s not forget Phil Jackson in all of this. His leadership techniques turned Fisher into the player he is today. Linking those 2 together again was extremely underrated. The team seemingly has matured much quicker than i expected, and Fish is a huge part of this thanks to Phil’s teachings when he was a young man.

    You mentioned enjoying the journey. That is one of the key elements to Phil’s coaching style and overall life mentality. His book “Sacred Hoops” is filled with this philosophy in detail (my favorite book of his). This team appears to have embraced this way of thinking. They have come together. Through the ups and downs, we as fans feel apart of this journey too. Makes them so easy to root for. This should only get better and it’s bigger than just wins/losses.

    Also, Kurt — you were dead-on in how to play the Hornets. You have to “Steve Nash” them. Let CP3 drop 32, but limit everyone else. Done and done. Brilliant blogging my friend.

  38. 36. I’d add taking care of the ball to the list of things we need to improve as well. While we seem to be turning the ball over less than at the beginning of the season, we’re still averaging 15.8 turnover/game. That’s a lot, especially when you compare to the other top teams (Detroit, Boston, Phoenix, Dallas, SA, NO), who are all in the 11-13 TO/game range. The exception is Boston; they average 15.0, but they force 16.2, so their defense more than makes up for it.

    That’s the other thing: every team on that list has on average fewer turnovers per game than its opponents, EXCEPT for the Lakers. We force 14.9 opposing turnovers per game, a higher mark than every other team except Boston. The problem is, we turn it over more than that. I think our defense is actually pretty underrated right now, but we’re allowing a higher OPP PPG because we’re so turnover-prone.

  39. The most impressive thing I saw last night is the way Andrew was passing the ball. He’s really got a good grasp of the offense. He found Luke on two really nice plays cutting to the basket.

  40. A cheerleader post:

    8 – Awesome post! The only thing I’d sa is that the Celtic lost still hurt me a lot because I do believe we can win that game. Maybe it’s blind love, but I think we have the tools if we execute.

    Other than that, your second paragraph was dead on. Brilliant!

    17 – I don’t mind a long post at all when it’s that good, Reed. I think we’ll all agree we have seen these changes with each game, but it’s nice to have the statistical proof to back it up. Thanks for the breakdown.

    But I don’t understand the PER differential. Is that to other C’s in the league or in comparison to last year?

    21 – Love the idea of doing a Q/A with a Piston’s blogger. What do we need to do to get Kurt to reach out to a friend? Or is there another team that would make a good example?

    24 – Bynum has been active on the screen and rolls the last few games, even venturing a hand out to tip the ball away at times to keep point guards careful. But much better D then what we saw with Shaq on these plays. The coaches have done well teaching how to defend it.

  41. Yup, I am loving this team. So, so gratifying. I don’t see why we can’t get the WC finals or nba finals either. Of course this team has never done anything in the playoffs, so they have to prove this, but I don’t see any team in the west they can’t beat, except for SA of course. The lakers making the nba finals would have to happen something like this: lakers keep playing as well (or better) than they are now, dallas (the only team in the west i can even imagine beating the spurs) knocks off SA in the semis, lakers are fortunate enough to be on the the other side of the bracket and beat phoenix or whoever and then dallas. Kind of a long shot though to get the brackets to break that kindly though.
    So being that I have a hard time seeing us winning it all quite yet, allow me to propose a few trades that will allow us to be truly legitimate contenders (wait for it Kurt…)
    2008′s Bynum, Farmar, Ariza, and Critt for
    2009′s Bynum, Farmar, Ariza, and Critt.
    Bynum now has a few wonderful post moves in his arsenal, and with a little more time and experience he will be the difference maker, ready to take the torch from the aging Duncan as the west’s best all-around big man. Add in improvement and maturation of the other 3 and, wow. Just think how much better just farmar and bynum are compared to last year. All 4 players are already in the rotation and Ariza’s the oldest at 22 stinking years old!
    So being that the rules of both the NBA and physics prevent the trading of players for future versions of themselves, let’s enjoy the ride on the good feelings express as the lakers continue to prove wrong experts like sir charles who said that he still the lakers a 7-8 seed even after they took apart the suns on christmas. yes kurt, happy days are indeed here again.

  42. yeah, you all will be amazed if you knew how many sites I scour after each game just to hear more about the lakers. i’ve pretty much added all the local newspapers who write their own stuff, as well as a few blogs…

    to think that just a few months back, i was thinking it may be the end of the Lakers as i knew them…

    i’m glad. very glad.

  43. Just tonite Charles again stated that the Lakers are pretenders. We just have to keep on taking the games one at a time and pound down those statements slowly, over time.

  44. Reed, all those numbers make me dizzy. LOL.

    Seriously, Phil has to get credit for this bunch too. His rotations, though often criticized, his methods, though every so often questioned, and his motives, though unremarkably unorthodox, works! Who says Phil doesn’t like coaching young players?

    Its too early to tell how far we will be able to reach. Just as Kurt says, lets savor these times for this is a moment of great joy and pride – showtime is back.

    Any season where you could transform a perennial ballhog into a team player that leads his team to within half-a-game from the conference leader has to be given credit. If not for New Orleans and Portland making their own headlines, this Laker team would be all over the place.

  45. I totally agree with you about enjoying the ride with Kobe and this team. It’s the most fun I’ve had watching the Lakers in a long time. I think this team has tremendous potential to grow and mature. Don’t rush it as it goes by way too quickly.

    I have been lucky enough to have watched most of Magic’s and Kobe’s careers. They have both been simply amazing game in and game out.

  46. The final piece to this Laker puzzle is a TRUE enforcer type. A player that can provide real some physical toughness in games against more physical teams(San Antonio, Detroit, Boston) Kobe provides the mental toughness but we are still lacking that one player that will take the hard fouls and not back down from anyone. One that plays tough physical D, Gets tough rebounds, and has an “attitude” that says “don’t mess with me or my boys”.
    I wish it could be kwame.

  47. The Guy Formerly Known As Lamar Odom January 10, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    If only we had Rasheed!!!!!! Damn!!!!

    2 things:

    1. A thought: The Lakers will probably not win the title this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they upset either Detroit or Boston. I don’t underestimate PJ.

    2. A question: If Kobe wins a 4th title with the Lakers (I think he’ll win 3 more, by the way), will it be the first time in NBA history that a Player has won championships with teams that he was a part of in its rebuilding years???

  48. Ball movement is artistry. Patience is always perfect. Kudos to Kupchak. Kobe’s lower shot total is a plus. Still shooting too much at times, especially when he is 8 of 25! No offense, I know Kobe is a great player, but I can almost see this team phase him out in a year, and still be a GREAT team. To some that may seem crazy, but I see they way they play when Kobe is not in, and no one is standing around the way they do when the ball is in Kobe’s hands. Plus with Bynums emergence, he will become that “Go To” guy when a big bucket is needed. I know Kareem is loving his star pupils’ effort. I know the “Sky Hook” is comin’ soon, and when it does look out!

  49. The thing about Kobe and his shot count and FG%, I wouldn’t worry. He shoots not only to score points, but continuously draw doubles. Which leaves guys wide open. Did you notice that Kobe was doubled on almost every possesion last night, and NO paid dearly. Kobe needs to chuck a wild shot up every now and then, and get nothing but net, in oder to keep the opposing defense in awe. Kobe is learning how to take advantage of double teams. This is a big reason why the team is doing so well.

  50. KMR Laker 4 Life January 11, 2008 at 12:50 am

    It’s a thing of beauty, ain’t it?
    I was skeptical about the Trev Ariza trade at first, but OMG the kid can play!! He’s tough to deal with at both ends of the floor and is meshing well with his new squad.
    Ronnie is pure joy to watch…hustle, intensity, great attitude. The ultimate team player.
    Lot’s of people are down on LO but he’s another great “team” guy…watch him blossom now that he’s the #3 option.
    Getting Fish back was manna from Heaven. He takes so much of the leadership burden off Kobe, and he’s still NAILS out there!
    Watching Byno come of age reminds me of another Laker, not so long ago…hmm I think he was # 8.
    Walton, Farmar, Critter round out a competitive, entertaining team that will be a blast to watch in the playoffs.
    GO LAKERS!!

  51. Kobe being phased out is such a low blow. Remember who gave Farmar 2 threes last night? Remember who fed Ronny’s dunk + ft? While ozen may think this team can make waves, Kobe IS the greatest factor in between. If in the previous years he has been giving you the tangibles (81pts anyone?) and last year’s scoring barrage, Kobe is giving this team his intangibles this year and bringing it in the W column. Don’t be too cocky to say this team is better than Portland without Kobe. No Way. In all his blabbery, Kobe is still Kobe – someone that commands the double and yet make the shot.

  52. @ 49

    Are you KIDDING me? It’s because Kobe is on the floor that our wingmen get open looks. It’s because Kobe is on the floor that their big men are worried about penetration on every play. It’s because Kobe is on the floor that one of their guards is going to have a very tough night expending energy on the defensive end. It’s because Kobe is on the floor that the other team’s best guard will have one of the worst offensive nights of his career, being hounded by a first-rate defender.

    You take Kobe out of this team and there will be times when the offense doesn’t click. There will be times when there is absolutely no penetration because there aren’t many players in the league who can get to the rim at will, shoot a high percentage from anywhere on the court, and still have vision to open things up for their teammates. Everything on this team begins with Kobe.

    It’s just beginning that things don’t always have to END with him as well.

  53. Well said, John.

    I love this post. I love to hear everyone have a forum (no pun intended) to speak positively about the team. It’s been a blast to watch them grow over the past few months. And, again, as tempting as it is to think how amazing this team will be in the next few years…. we’ve got quite a squad right now.

    Ditto on the enforcer comments.

    In keeping with our semi-regular Hollinger updates, don’t look now, but we’re sitting at a 10.6% on champs. Funny how the Hollinger odds were forecasting a higher seed while we were still down low… and now we’re tied for 3rd best in the west… he just might be onto something…

    One other thought – coming up to the NO game after West had that ugly landing on this hip I had a funny thought – I really wanted them to play NO at full strength. You know that’s a good sign when you’d rather your team play a solid team at full strength than pick up an easy W.

  54. Kobe is the reason we will win a championship in LA again! Say what you will about his off court antics and his on the court ball hogging (your opinion not mine) but never EVER can we discuss his willingness to WIN! He subjugated his game to Shaq when he was here–as well, he should have–all for the sake of winning.
    He so loved being a Laker that he took all of the false accusations of getting Shaq traded in stride. Was loyal even when everyone thought that he should win with rookies and that if we had kept Shaq instead of him we would have another banner hanging in the rafters.
    Who believes NOW that the decision to keep Kobe was wrong? Yes I know it is still early in the season.
    Now, he is doing what everyone has asked him to do, he has this team playing like contenders! Still, it is not enough.
    Yes, he is having a poor shooting percentage in games compared to past years. And yes, Bynum is becoming a force. Yes again, Fisher is providing solid pg abilities.
    But Kobe gets the early nod of MVP this season, by my vote. He is not preventing Bynum from becoming a Star by complaining that Bynum is his little brother=) and should defer to him. Kobe is allowing everyone the opportunity to shine night in and night out.
    We as Laker fans should just ENJOY.

  55. Kobe still makes my jaw drop.

    Behind the gloss that is the good play from “those other guys” is the fact that Kobe still does that amongst a more pleasing backdrop, and that is really why I am happy as Laker fan.

    KG has been stellar, and if the Celtics are even a semblance going forward of the pace they have established, he will likely be MVP. But, since the last time he received it, you always knew he only needed legit talent to be a winning force. He is hard to argue against.

    But, Kobe is still making jaws drop, and he always seems to find a different way to do it. I think his new act might turn out to be my favorite.

    It is perhaps a poor LA cliche at this point, but, KOBE 4 MVP.

  56. post 17 by reed has to be the most refreshing post for a lakers fan to see how much we have actually improved this year. It is unbelievable to see how much we have improved statistically over one year.

    I think another thing we have to recognise is the job of Phil Jackson to start the season with a team in disarray to turn it into a team which is ranked third in the Western Conference is amazing.

    Also the job of Kareem Abdul Jabbar turning Andrew Bynum into one of the best centers in the league, i says this after seeing him dominate Tyson Chandler and several other big men so far this season.

    At the end of the day to see a lakers team that gels aswell as this is a joy to watch and hopefully it continues on for the rest of the season. I also thing we can do something special in the playoff this year if we continue like this we’ve knocked of some big names, pheonix twice, Spurs twice.

    Also in the spell were enjoying now we got hammered by Boston but the other 2 losses we lost to Golden State and Cleveland by a couple of points which shows we are more than competitive and by tomorrow we can beat the bucks and might even be one win away from the top of the western conference which would be amazing.

    another notable thing is I havent said anything about kobe, which is a player which would have been mentions first in any conversation about the lakers a year back, this showing how much the team has grown and how we now don’t look like a one man team but a real team. Hopefully one day we might be able to look like the team they have in detroit with rip, billups, rasheed and prince who are basically brothers.

  57. spurs once bit of a typo there

  58. With San Antonio losing to Detroit today, Lakers tie them with an identical 23-11 record. Since the Lakers are 10-5 in the West as supposed to SA’s 16-9, LA gets the tiebreak. Dallas moves to 2nd place and with Phoenix losing to Utah, the conference is within reach. Not sure why Nash and Marion were out, and with Hill undergoing apendectomy, Phoenix might relax a bit. It makes the Bucks game an all-important one to win and take care of that Memphis game at home.

  59. This post captured the EXACT way i feel about this team even our last title season cant compare to the joy i get watching the games or viewing the highlights .it sucks i am now living in Spurs country)…back when when we won the last of the 3 titles we had kobe/Shaq beefing, Phil whining and the offense was so predictable-Shaq inside and Kobe iso …and a few clutch plays from Fox, Fish and Horry. Now we move the ball, play pressure defense even full-court at times …love the way Bynum is developing it is similar to when kobe started to progress as a young player and Farmar as well no we aint title wothy but we are fun 2 watch

  60. I’ve been saying this for the past two years, believe it or not. But less heartbreak this year, for sure … ::fingers crossed::

    The NOOCH game (sorry, I love calling them that even though technically they’re not NOOCH anymore) was also the second time this season the Lakers bounced back from a bad loss to a team to stick it to ‘em. This shows that they’re motivated, and that they learn from their mistakes. I love rooting for these guys.

  61. the other stephen January 11, 2008 at 11:00 am

    hehe i like how angry PJ looks, win or loss.

  62. Steve Hartman of the Loose Cannons has been predicting a below .500 season for the Lakers–until yesterday–when he predicted that the Lakers would win the Western Conference championship!

    From comments on this thread, it appears that Steve is not the only bandwagon man in town.

    I was here last year when I would walk away from Laker games with two minutes left if Smush was still on the floor. I was watching when Kobe got 81–and needed the 81 to win! I was listening on the radio when Kobe broke down and indicated he didn’t want to be a Laker any more. I followed the KG saga to the bitter end.

    I saw the lack of respect and appreciation from many participants in this blog when Derek Fisher walked away from money on the table and swallowed his pride to play with the Lakers again. I watched as the walking wounded came back from their injuries and began to recover. I knew that the trade for Trevor was good for the Lakers right away–but in my wildest dreams I never imagined how good!

    I’ve enjoyed the journey because I enjoy the team with all their imperfections. The Lakers are fun to watch.

    Despite that, since the Lakers always think championship, I wouldn’t be surprised with a trade and/or an acquisition still this year involving the usual suspects. I think that the Lakers still want “one more piece,” and you get the most value for your players when they’re winning.

  63. drrayeye,
    Yes, you have been one of the true believers.

    Ironically I think the hardest player to trade might be Kwame. How do you replace his toughness down low, especially with the 2nd unit? We will need him in any championship run against the really strong teams this year. Besides, it looks like he is relaxing a bit – perhaps he is also healthy – and being more aggressive offensively.

  64. Ariza was such a score. He reminds me of a certain ex-Laker when he plays: Clark Kent. He’s a hustle guy who puts in 110% every time he plays. One of his noted weaknesses when he came on board was his mid-long range jumper. Since this was about 2 months ago, I’ve already seen dramatic improvement.

    Ronny may be that enforcer guy. He plays physically down low and can play finesse when the team needs him to hit those mid-range jumpers.

    If we move Kwame, who do we pick up? I don’t see us with holes at any position. Nothing jumps out at me.

  65. I rewatched part of the Hornets game last night and a few things struck me- Andrew needs to work on setting screens. He gets to the spot and starts running away almost instantly. He definitely has a lot of room to improve all around. But that’s probably a good thing.

    Also, I haven’t heard anyone mention it, but Odom’s defense on West, especially in the 3rd quarter. Very active, very physical denying him the opportunity to get the ball. With all the heat Odom takes, I think it’s only fair to point this out.

  66. We are witnessing the return of Greatness.
    We are witnessing the growing up/emergegence of Bynomite and Farmar.

    If you are Farmar & Crittendon, how much luckier could you be then to learn under a player and person like DFish!!

    I’m glad the Mitch did not end up mortgaging the Lakers future by acquiring some washed up has been like JOneal!

    This team will only get better, and it will be up to Kobe now to show them the way and get them to that next level. When you are the man and a true champion, thats what you do….you elevate and transform good players into a great team!

    Prediction tonight:
    Lakers 118
    Buck 96

  67. James (66): Lots of times, Andrew is slipping the screen, rather than setting it. (If he were running away right at the moment of contact, rather than before it, he’d usually be called for a moving screen.) It’s good to slip the screen every now and then, to throw something unexpected at the defense, and because if it works, the end result is a lob and a dunk. But I agree that he’s doing that a bit too much, and that he ought to just set the screen solid. It’s like a QB that runs play action all the time–it loses its effect if you do it too often.

    Fisher can’t continue to knock down shot after shot, can he? He’s shooting out of his mind. (Knock on wood.)

  68. Do you think if the Lakers replaced Joel Meyers with Harry Shearer anyone would notice?

  69. 68. I was just about to comment on the slip screen thing. I think Drew had success with it a few times, so now he goes back to it more often.

    David Thorpe, ESPN.com’s best NBA guy, breaks down Bynum:

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=thorpe_david&page=ScoutingBynum-080111&univLogin02=stateChanged

  70. One problem with trading almost anyone on this team. Usually you trade potential for experience. Also, usually experience costs more for what you get, but you know more about what you are getting. This team is built on youth gaining experience and their learning curve is higher than most because 1) they are all at about the same point in the learning curve and 2) the organization has made a commitment to develop the players. Crit and Coby are behind everyone else only because they are rookies, but they too seem to have bball smarts.

    Any experience we get not only will have to learn the triangle, like Trevor, but they will be at a much higher cost/performance ratio, unlike Trevor, and we will probably lose more in development than we gain in experience.

    Besides – I agree with 81 Witness, in that Rony is probably going to become our enforcer guy. That leaves us with no real glaring needs.

  71. drrayeye, I aam a bit offended by your tone and suggestion that we are all fair weather fans and that you are the only true fan. I’ve been a loyal fan since 1984, win or lose, laughing or crying. i remember those days when the first thiing we did was pick up the Times sports section and check what Bird’s team did, cause we knew we’d see them in the finals, when a loss hurt for many days, I watched through the Rudy T painful season, even tho it was mostly a bust, I hung in with my team. I think most of the commenters on this blog have been fans through thick and thin, good and bad, sure some change their minds, and they can do that, it’s a free country.
    and I have noticed a lot of new names recently, Kurt you’re moving on up! goodonya (as they say in Australia).
    and I’ve been meaning to ask…where’s John R been recently? I miss his conspiracy theories, how the refs cheat for us, etc…

  72. 49 – I can see why you might say that about Kobe. It seems we’ve played very well the last few games without Kobe really needing to score a whole lot and/or not shooting well. Bynum, Fisher, Luke, Farmar, Trevor, and Odom have all been contributing consistently in the past few weeks (except for the Celtic game). In fact, I think the Lakers are undefeated when Kobe scores less then 20, meaning others are contributing at a good rate. But I agree with the other posts that a the reason the team is able to contribute so much is because of the position Kobe is able to put them in by drawing the defense’s attention whenever he’s on the floor.

    While I’d never wish it, if Kobe sits one or two games for whatever reason, it would be interesting to see how the team responded. I would like to see who had it in them to step up in such a situation, but would be scared Lamar would think he would be getting Kobe’s shots and end up chucking ill-advised 3′s and bricking layups (though I agree with 66, Odom did a good job manning up against a smaller but tenacious West).

  73. 70. Okay, reading that makes me a little giddy.

  74. (72) Chris, it’s not really an issue of “true fans” to me, but more an issue of “blowing with the wind.” To their credit, most on this blog have their feet on the ground. We know that this “high” could end tonight with a bad loss to Milwaukee. We could have serious injuries like the Clippers. We could even have a replay of last year in a different form, with Kobe gone for real next year.

    I’m with Kurt. Let’s enjoy the uncertainty, keep our expectations low, and enjoy the success much more when it comes–and let’s not “bust up the team” when we lose a few; or try to reserve tickets and buy memorabilia for the suposed LA/Celtics championship playoff (as suggested by a cartoon in today’s LA Times) when we win four “backies.”

    Craig (71), For business and team reasons, I don’t think the Lakers would trade Kwame this season–unless it was part of a bigger multiplayer deal that would appear to be extremely risky and extremely unlikely. We can’t count on Mihm to be a reliable backup (for health reasons) yet–and Kwame’s toes are begiining to twinkle again on defense (and even some offense). Even though Lamar will contribute significantly in his own way as long as he remains a Laker, both for business and team reasons, Lamar remains the one player that could be traded-or not.

    Watch Pau Gasol carefully when the Grizz come to town.

  75. Craig W (71),

    I agree….making a trade while the team is gelling like it is right now would hurt us.

    Most people want to unload Kwame, but what can we get for him that would actually improve our team right now? There’s nothing out there.

    I think we should hold on to Kwame and use that money in the off-season to make an aqcuisition! $9 million coming off the payroll will be very valuable.

  76. We might even resign Kwame for less and use the difference to sign Turiaf.

  77. Mike in the Mountain West January 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Laker Glory,

    Unfortunately, even with Kwames’ contract coming off the books the Lakers will still be over the cap and will only have thier mid-level to spend. I think it more prudent to use that money to extend some guys if we can.

    In some ways I feel like we are too stacked. For instance, what do we do with RadMan once he comes back? Whose minutes does he get and do we really need him?

  78. 76),
    “I agree….making a trade while the team is gelling like it is right now would hurt us.”

    Depends on the trade. The team was doing pretty well when the Ariza – Cook – Evans move was made; most people would say that that was a positive move.

  79. Who’s Harry Shearer?

    I want to replace Joel Myers with Spiro Dedes.

  80. I fully agree with ‘Burning Joe’ (Post #18). There is no reason why we cannot win it all this year.

    We have beaten all the projected contenders (except Boston) at least once already this year, and all seem to agree that the team is still developing and will only get better by season’s end if they keep their focus and do not get distracted.

    If Mavericks and Suns can be contenders, why can’t we? What do they have on us? I think Lakers is a more complete team from A to Z. Spurs seams to be sputtering. Our young legs and deep bench should be able to take them out. Besides, Odom (like Horry) seems to play his best ball in the playoffs. Phil just has to stay the course and keep playing the bench. (We should be #1 in the Western Conference by All Star break).

    I do not know who was responsible for keeping Bynum, but I was ALWAYS in support of keeping him. In fact, I thought it would have been crazy to do otherwise. Now that Dr. Buss has made his point, I hope Kobe keeps playing at MVP level; after all, he got what he wanted, i.e. a competitive team and likely CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM that works hard.

    Trevor Ariza was a very good trade and Mitch must be commended for that. Personally, I won’t tamper with the team any more. This might just fracture the ” All for Each, and Each for All” spirit on the team and we may just end up with Humpty Dumpty.

    We will DEAL with Boston’s tired legs when we meet them in the Finals. This is the start of something BIG. 6 rings in a row anyone?

  81. A few commenters have suggested the Lakers are title contenders this year, I’ll say I just don’t see it. Remember, the playoffs and the regular season are very different animals, rotations are tightened and weaknesses exposed and picked on far more than the regular season. Yes, Washers, the Lakerrs beat a depleted Spurs team, but do you really think the Lakers can beat them in 7 games? I also think the Mavs are better than people think (Golden State was a bad machup for them) and the Lakers would struggle to beat them in 7. Also. I think Detroit and Boston beat the Lakers.

    But. as the point of the post said, I’m not letting that damper the enjoyment.

  82. Lakers has ALL the pieces. They can play big (Bynum, Brown, Mihm, Turiaf, Odom), they can play quick, good defensive players in Trevor, Kobe, Farmar etc., good young legs, etc., etc.

    True, the younger players do not have Championship experience, but that’s where Kobe and Fisher come in (6 rings between them). Then there is the All-Star coaching staff (Phil, kurt, Jim, Brian, Craig, and Kareem) with a ton of rings. So baring injuries, (while keeping focus on the next game approch, one game at a time) I’m chilling my champagne early.