Thoughts From Vegas

Kurt —  January 20, 2008

First off, thanks to Rob L. and Gatinho for filling in while I was gone. Apparently I should take more vacations because the quality of posts here seems to go up when I leave.

Trevor Ariza broke a bone in his foot during practice today, apparently getting tangled up with Lamar Odom. That, combined with Bynum, certainly will not help the Lakers defense or depth. Walton is going to have to step up, particularly on defense. However, read the first bullet below before freaking out.

Last week was an interesting week to be out of the media loop for the most part, watching just parts of games and following the reactions from a distance. That space can help provide a different perspective. So here are a few thoughts.

• The world is not ending. It’s amazing how fast doom and gloom envelopes Lakers fans from one injury. First, Bynum will be back for the part of the season that matters — the playoffs. The team needs to be rolling going in, and with Andrew back and a favorable schedule late, they should be. Seeding is seeding, but you will have to beat the good teams some time anyway.

In the short term, certainly the Lakers will miss Bynum, and there are going to be some adjustments, but this team is still better than last year’s team without Andrew — Farmar and Fisher replace Smush out top, there is more depth and the team is playing better defense. This is better than a .500 team without Andrew.

But only if they snap out of their mental funk the injury put the team in. The Lakers have had one bad offensive game (Phoenix) and one bad defensive game (Seattle) in the wake of Bynum going down. The team needs to find its rhythm, its rotation and get back to exploiting match-ups if they are going to win.

• The Kwame conundrum. With Bynum anchoring down one corner of the triangle, the offense looked a lot more like what Tex Winter envisioned this season compared to the last couple of years. The Lakers got used to that. And in the Phoenix game they kept throwing the ball into Kwame and expecting Bynum-like things to happen. They didn’t, and they will not for seven weeks or so.

Kwame Brown is what he is, a big body who can play man post defense well. I like the Kurt Rambis line about Kwame that Matt “Money” Smith repeats: “For the best players the game moves in slow motion, for Kwame it’s always in fast forward.” To me, this is not a question of Kwame’s hands, contract or work ethic — those are what they have been since before he came to the Lakers. (Which is why I never understood the $9 mil contract offer.) It’s really a question of expectations. People still expect Kwame to play like a former number one overall, to play like a guy with a $9 million contract, to play like a guy with that physique. He never has. He never will. He’d make a decent backup center at $3 mil a year, expecting anything else is courting disappointment.

That starts with the Lakers players and coaches. You can’t throw the ball to Kwame on the block and expect an automatic score. When Kobe or Fish drive the lane they can’t expect to dish inside to Kwame and know the dunk is coming. You can’t count on quick defensive rotations. He is what he is, the Lakers need to play to his strengths and not expect him to be Bynum.

And, Kwame should have plenty of motivation to step up — this is a contract year.

• Thank god Phil Jackson put an end to the Chris Webber rumor. (Hat tip to Muddywood.) The Lakers improvement has been based on defense this season, and Webber hasn’t played it in years.

• If you’re in Vegas and want to see a show, I recommend “Love” at the Mirage. It’s the Cirque du Soleil show done to Beatles music, and it is spectacular. If you’re in Vegas and want to gamble, I recommend craps (it was the only game that treated me well, I was somehow repelling good cards, whether playing blackjack or poker).

• Save the Sonics! I think I get the business game David Stern is playing, trying to pressure some state and local governments to pick up much of the tab on a new arena, that’s a good precedent from the owners perspective. But really, you want to move a team out of burgeoning Seattle to go to Oklahoma City? Really? To me Vegas makes more sense if you’re going to move a team, and the Hornets seem like a team that has to move, not the Sonics. But all that doesn’t make the current owners the most money in the short term — and Stern, the one guy supposed to be looking out for the long-term health of the league, backs the greed.

to Thoughts From Vegas

  1. I agree with Stern. living in Sacramento, the local government put Measures Q & R on the ballot last year to initiate 1/4 cent sales tax increases for purposes of building the Queens a new arena and to redevelop an old railyard across from downtown (supposedly the site of the arena).

    Measures Q & R lost by a landslide. What does this have to do with Stern though? There is no point in building a new arena or stadium if the fans do not approve. It’s like going to an A’s game or a Brave’s game; the stadium is 25% full. There is no point in having the owners invest all this money into a new arena without public approval. They will be the people who use the arena.

    This shows that the city of Sacramento did not want a new arena that badly.


  2. The whole thing about building new stadiums is very political. When a team has a new stadium built the value of that team increases about 20% so the owner gets a huge jump in ‘equity.’ Also which ever company has their name on the stadium enjoys a bump in their stock prices. Living in SD this has been a huge issue since Qualcomm is not hi-tech and modern. They want a new stadium for luxury boxes and superbowls. We shall how this plays out.


  3. Kurt, I think you’re not considering Stern’s personal feelings/friendships on this issue. Stern has been close friends with the Sonic’s current owner ever since he was a minority owner of the Spurs. Stern even introduced him when he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. This also explains why Spurs players almost never get suspended for obvious dirty play, why referees get suspended for ejecting Spurs players, and why Spurs opponents get suspended for leaving the bench during playoff games while Spurs players don’t get suspended for it.


  4. Re Kwame’s contract yr…what if he believes he is what you say-a decent back-up Center? The market for that is pretty well set and him having a great contract drive-or not- isn’t going to change greatly what he will get. While it’s true it only takes one idiot GM/Owner,w/most teams hovering near the lux tax,and a large,deep FA group,I don’t see anyone offering Kwame more than part of the MLE.
    I wonder if the contract yr drive is muted if the player knows he isn’t going to get more than he’s already making. For example,Smush sure didn’t act as if a big contract was out there.

    Re Seattle… Mark Cuban did an interview where he said that if there was huge fan support for the Sonics,that voice would have been heard by now. Tho he was somewhat sceptical of Oklahoma and did the “have to get all the info if it ever comes up” shuffle,it was pretty clear he’s a yes vote on moving.


  5. The Dude Abides January 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Comment #3 was mine, I thought I was signed in but I wasn’t.


  6. and now…Trevor Ariza breaks his foot on Lamar Odom’s foot.

    stick a fork in us, we’re done. seemingly.


  7. The Dude Abides January 20, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Well…at least it wasn’t his fifth metatarsal…
    Seriously, I’m going to guess six to eight weeks for Trevor.


  8. Do, what with Odom, trade him for another 13-10 guy? Because those guys are just laying around?

    Odom has unfortunately been at the center of the two injuries, but you can’t seriously blame him. If you’ve ever played basketball, you know feet get tangled and weird things happen. Sometimes bad things.


  9. Just doing some checking on this and it looks like 4 to 8. Also, traditionally the fourth metatarsal is a stress fracture that comes over time, not from one incident, but this appears to be a different case. It is a pretty common soccer injury.


  10. Its funny to a point that Odom somehow “caused” the 2 injuries. But I don’t think its a fair thing to say that he deliberately did it. As for me, I laugh about it. But it hurts come game time.

    Denver is up tomorrow and the Lakers are short-handed. Even at full, Denver is a pesky customer with all those slaps and nudges. I like Ronny at center since Camby is not much of an offensive player and I think we could use one forward coming back (the martian!) for this game… Is it just me or will Kobe see a lot of Melo tomorrow?


  11. Hey, at least Odom doesn’t do it purposely like Bruce Bowen.


  12. Lamar Odom is back! January 20, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    A lot of those comments were tongue-in-cheek, people. Lighten up………………….except for mine. I am dead serious about everything I’ve said.


  13. Maybe Odom doesn’t recognize his surroundings because he’s too preoccupied about landing on that shoulder.

    That’d be pretty ironic.


  14. Ariza has become pretty important to the Lakers–particularly on defense. We better hope the injury is closer to 4 weeks than 8 (or longer).

    Doug Collins made an interesting point about the Lakers upcoming (unusually long) road trip: if Kobe turns an ankle, the Lakers (one of the top 6 teams in the West at a minimum) could have their season all-but buried by one two week stretch. Hardly seems fair. 9-week road trips should not be allowed, and the Lakers recent stream of injuries is exactly why. Most teams will not face a stretch of the season anywhere near this grueling. Scheduling should be done in a manner that makes things as fair as possible.


  15. 9 weeks??!!?
    me thinks we mean 9 games…

    tomorrow night will be a good chance to see if Kwame has a warriors heart, I hope he does.


  16. Lamar Odom is back! January 21, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Let’s look at the bright side. Kwame’s play can only improve. 🙂


  17. I’m confused guys – the article names Fisher several times as the one involved in the Ariza accident. Did the info change, or did someone (me?) misunderstand?

    20 – You may have been kidding, but that really just hit me – Kwame really has no place to go but up. I think that’s important because if we can get him to feel comfortable doing what he does by the time Bynum’s back, we can actually use him to exploit match ups like we know Phil loves. That said, I’d be happy to get 2 pts, 6 reb, 2 blk, and a steal on any given night from Kwame.