Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  February 3, 2008

Records: Lakers 29-16 (5 seed); Wizards 24-21 (6 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.4 (5th); Wizards 109.2 (12th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (8th); Wizards 109.0 (20th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladamir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche, Brendan Haywood

My Prediction: I think the Patriots win by 20, that they have another gear the Giant’s don’t. And I think I’ll drink a lot of Stella.

Lakers Notes: I don’t know about you, I can’t get enough Pau Gasol talk. He probably will not play today (although the Lakers could use him), remember he missed three of the last for Griz games because of a sore back. Still, he’s what’s on Lakers fans minds.

Long-time readers here know Xavier, a basketball player and coach (and blogger) from Spain who has seen Pau up close for years. Here are his thoughts:

Like most of you, I was shocked by the Pau Gasol deal but I might be a special case. Although my favorite player is Kobe Bryant, Gasol has always been a hometown hero here in Spain and having him dressed in purple & gold is something I can’t explain in words.

Leaving personal feelings about this deal apart, the Lakers have accomplished (thanks to our beloved Kupchak) an all-star caliber player without giving up any of our 3 core starters (Kobe, Bynum and Odom) and even managed to sign the trade leaving our bench mob almost intact. The only thing I regret a little is giving up Crittenton (although having Farmar makes him an expendable piece) and draft rights to Marc Gasol (It might look like I’m prejudice but this guy is really good and is competing with Rudy Fernández for ACB MVP).
But what are the Lakers really getting with Gasol on their team?

Gasol is a 7-footer who can put up 20-10 per night with a higher basketball IQ than most of you think. He’s been taught European basketball where movement without the ball is far more important than playing the isolation and offensive triangle is about moving without the ball and feeding the open men situation that generates the offense.
In Memphis most of his game has been playing face to the basket as he has a nice dribble for a 7-footer and sweet J , but he’s also a proven post player with a well rounded offensive game, hook shots and even a shy fade away has been seen in some games (which I liked a lot). He has a very fast first step that he likes to use it when playing on the high post or far in the base lane (click that link and you can also watch the classic Gasol-KG highlight). As a Grizzly he was the only man down there under the basket so he had to do it all and never played with a real C (uh, Darko Milicic aka the next Kwame Brown?), hopefully we’ll see him pairing with Bynum sooner rather than later and that will help him shine because they complement each other very well.

Pau has been labeled as a soft player. I’d actually say that he’s not as tough as the other All-star PF/C in the league. He get’s rebounds but mostly because of his size and good positioning not because of his strength. He has a career 1.8 blocks per game, not bad for a “soft” player. I won’t make much of an issue about his toughness because as a whole, the Lakers team has the pieces to cover that and he has shown that he knows how to play team defense.

While Bynum’s not with the team, Gasol will fit the C position and will fill it very well. Let’s see how Phil combines the team when Bynum and Ariza returns with our Forward loaded rotation (Odom, Ariza, Walton, Gasol, Turiaf, Radmanovic). What a great headache to have!

The Wizards Coming In: All Star forward (and a guy Lakers fans still remember fondly) Caron Butler has missed the last four games and likely will not play today. Gilbert Arenas definitely is out. Despite that the Wizards are a solid 5-5 in their last 10.

The guy carrying the load is Antwan Jamison, who is averaging nearly 22 and 9 over the last 10 games. He’s shooting 35% from beyond the arc in that time but a pretty average 49.4% (eFG%) overall in that time.

This Wizards team is Gansta — Andray Blatche is apparently a Crip Blood. He’s also a guy with a lot of potential on the basketball court, I remember him most from the Summer Pro League two years ago where he really impressed. There are questions about his decision making but he is capable of a big night.

For more insight on the Wizards, head on over to the good Bullets Forever blog.

One Thing That Is Bringing Me Down: In case you didn’t see it, friend-of-this-site Kelly Dwyer, one of the very best bloggers on the NBA, is not going to be doing much at the Yahoo NBA blog any more. Frankly, True Hoop has long been my first NBA read in the morning, but KD had made that Yahoo blog #2 with a bullet.

I know the guy taking over as lead blogger and he is good and certainly knows the game, but Yahoo has clearly decided on a style change for that blog. And it disappoints me, because to me there are moving away from the sports fan style to more entertainment-style. Nobody was doing quite what KD was doing or as well, and I can’t wait until some smart exec snaps him up and gives him another spot where he can thrive again.

Keys To The Game: I watched a chunk of the Wizards/Jazz game on Friday night and the Wiz frustrated the structured Jazz offense with a match-up zone (at least for the first quarter, Utah eventually figured it out). I expect that the Lakers will see the same thing for stretches — that means Kobe, Fisher, Sasha and Radman should get some chances to shoot over the top of it a little. Also, this is where Gasol can really help in his first game if he gets on the floor – if the defense extends out to get to those shooters, he should get one-on-one coverage in deep and Gasol is instantly the best interior scorer on this team. If not him, somebody (Ronny) needs to take advantage.

My feeling is Ronny remains a very key cog until Bynum returns — he is the only guy who provides energetic interior defense. He blocks shots and intimidates some. Gasol will bring a little of this but not much. Defense is still what drives this Laker squad and Ronny is a key part of that right now and his minutes should reflect that.

With the injuries two two of their three key players, the Wizards bench has been weakened — the Lakers bench should shine this morning and be a key part of a win.

The Wizards are not a great defensive team, but they are improved and have been playing better of late so the Lakers need to bring the same energy they had in Toronto to the nation’s capital.

Where you can watch: Breakfast with the Lakers. Game time is 9 am (Pacific) on KCAL (9).

Kurt

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100 responses to Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

  1. carter blanchard February 3, 2008 at 4:10 am

    The Dwyer news definitely bummed me out as well.

    I’m setting my alarm for tomorrow, to Pau better at least make a symbolic entrance if not extended minutes.

    Thanks for the breakdown Xavier. I just keep getting more and more stoked.

  2. “Executive of The Year” – Mitch Kupchak for:

    1. Resisting pressure to trade Andrew Bynum for Kidd last season long before most fans (me excluded) did not see the value of Andrew.

    2. Drafted Javaris Crittenton who many are sorry to see go; but was a good enough pick to entice Memphis to make the trade.

    3. Brought back Fisher who is playing the best ball of his career.

    4. Did not succumb to Kobe’s trade demands while keeping the situation manageable.

    5. Great trade for Ariza

    6. Greater trade for Pau Gasol

    7. Did the trades early enough to give the team an adequate time to gell before the playoffs

    I don’t know about you all, but the champagne I’ll be popping today will be the Lakers in June.

  3. Kurt, Has it been confirmed that Pau is not playing tonight? I’m very excited as national tv here in the Philippines is showing the game LIVE at 1am. I will risk missing monday morning work by staying up until the final buzzer sounds. I hope they do debut Gasol.

  4. I don’t think we’ll see much more than a cameo appearance by Pau, but I hope he’s there. It will give his new team a chance to put on a Pau Pau “welcome” show against the Wiz.

    I doubt that we will see any more trades this season by the Lakers, even though the “financials” and player alignments almost demand a trade by next year.

    Most analysts seem to assume that enigmatic Lamar O will seemlessly switch from the 4 to the 3 when Andrew returns. I doubt it will be that simple. Mitch made it clear that Pau is destined for the 4, but Lamar will be given multiple roles. That may be a polite way of saying that Lamar loses a regular starting position–becoming a perpetual “tweener” wildcard against opponents on an assignment by assignment basis.

    It will clearly take at least this season to work it all out–which should be fun for us and consternation for everyone else in the NBA!

  5. I hope Dwyer finds somewhere to post his knowledge, everybody should take a look at his work.

    Without Arenas and Butler, Daniels as the only real PG, and the only decent backcourt defender in Stevenson (who will have to suffer Kobe) I see this game as the perfect one for the bench to win it.

    I don’t know if Pau will be ok to play today but his game would help spread the floor, I just hope Lamar and Turiaf don’t get in foul trouble stopping Antawn Jamison

  6. Kurt, the game is being shown nationally on NBATV.

  7. could somebody confirm that gasol will be playing today?

    i heard from a spanish site, that he will. but any news in the US?

    thanks

  8. cbs2.com/sports suggests that he’d probably play against new jersey and not today.

    btw kobe springs for 35 and lakers win

  9. I mean Pau suggests in his interview that he probably won’t play today.

  10. High expectations
    ===========
    Pau Gasol woke up in Memphis on Friday morning, flew to Los Angeles for a physical exam, then flew back to catch up with the Lakers, arriving at the team hotel here 15 minutes before midnight.

    “I had a taste of people’s reaction today in L.A. at the few places that I’d been,” he said. “At LAX, [fans took] a lot of pictures. I signed the L.A. Times a few times. Then the driver went to In-N-Out Burger next to the airport and people were crazy. They were really excited and they were really pulling for me and for the team. The expectations obviously are really high, and that’s also exciting.”

    Exciting, yes. Overwhelming? No.

  11. Warren-according to the LA Times today, Pau isn’t expected to debut in purple and gold (anyone know what number he is? I bet those jerseys will go like hotcakes) until Tues (http://tinyurl.com/yvy8yy) (Wed. for you?)’s game. Sorry :(

  12. Looks like Caron is playing tonight. I saw yesterday that he was planning to try to play this morning.

  13. No Pau today, he’s at the game though but hasn’t had a practice.
    Pau jerseys were up for sale at http://www.lakersstore.com like 5 minutes after the trade went down haha

  14. oh god
    I’m about to see a lakers game at 6 pm!
    thats like… like… oh god, no words

    you (american) guys don’t understand me cuz your games are not shown at 3 am and get to see about 17 games (only) per season.
    International comenters might know what I mean.

    BTW, Butler plays today…

  15. He’s #16 by the way

  16. Wasn’t there a guy on this board who argued that PJ should seriously consider starting Turiaf over Kwame? Oh yeah, that was me…

  17. Just to clarify, Blatche was a blood and Bosh was the crip. Sadly, the part about Blatche being a blood has been deleted since then which leads me to believe that it was either a lie, or the Bloods have ties inside Wikipedia.

    It’s probably the first one though. Here’s to a good game fellas!

  18. Um… 81? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

  19. End of First Quarter, Kobe 19, Washington 15.

  20. Farmar has been having problems defending bigger pg’s. Washington crowd rooting harder for Lakers than Wiz.

  21. Sorry I missed on the Butler starting thing, I trusted a report I read at 1 am. Oops.

  22. im really hoping they just insert pau gasol. i don’t care if it’s a second or what haha just insert him. just make me see that this is not some laker fanboy dream

  23. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3228635

    Doesn’t look like he will today. Pretty fluid first half. The lakers still seem enegergized.

  24. carter blanchard February 3, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I feel the same as 22. At least a cameo! There’s no way DJ Mbenga knew the playbook when he started playing. God knows Kwame never learned it. Throw him in there!

    Anyway, we look pretty rejuvenated. Crazy how emotion impacts your play so much, but I definitely think you can blame part of our struggling without Bynum on the emotional letdown of losing him.

  25. kwame a,

    actually farmar has had problems because the transitions off of screen during the 2nd were terrible.

    Nice efforts by Kobe, Fisher, Turiaf, and Odom. Mbenga played some very solid minutes too.

  26. Kobe is getting anything he wants. He’s hitting those tough shots that most players can’t even get off without being blocked.

    The role players are running the offense too. Wide open 3’s?

    Nice first half…

  27. Game is also NBA TV Kurt.

  28. (22, 24)

    Pau can’t play because Kwame missed his flight to Memphis and thus has yet to complete his physical. (NBA TV commentator: Kwame is still finding ways to hurt his team.) Phil couldn’t put him in the game even if he wanted to.

  29. Now THAT’S the kind of inspired ball I’ve been dreaming of that the Lakers played in the first half. Intense D, lots of movement, lots of tight passing, Kobe combining his scorer/passer twin mentalities in between plays rather than different games.

    I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get a team to play this way. It’s a shame that a team needs a huge trade to provide that kind of motivation.

    That said, man, I’m really feeling so incredibly lucky to be a Laker fan. Watching the Wizards, realizing how most NBA franchises don’t ever come close ONCE to the level of success various Laker teams have enjoyed in the past. And here we are yet again, with another potential dynasty on our hands.

    What an embarrassment of riches.

  30. Pau has missed three of the past four games because of a sore back, then he had to make two cross-country flights in 24 hours. So no, it’s probably not a good idea for him to play today. Remember that the absence of Kwame means fewer turnovers, fewer four-point swings when he misses a dunk or fumbles a pass leading to an opponent fast break, but more defending the rim by Mbenga and Turiaf. Just like the Toronto game :-)

  31. Look at Radman’s stat line….

    12pts, 5rebs, 3assists

    And I don’t think he’s even awake.

  32. carter blanchard February 3, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Ah thanks 28, I missed the first quarter so didn’t hear that (or see until just now that he’s not suited). That’s too bad.

    Also, have to agree with 2. Mitch pulled off the 2 best in-season trades of the year. How rare is that for a franchise that’s typically very inactive during the season.

  33. So, am I the only one who thinks this is an ‘addition by subtraction’ with regards to getting rid of Kwame? I mean, the last couple of games after they traded Brown they’ve looked really good, against a couple of the better teams in the East.

    It feels like the team is much better even before Pau gets on the court, simply by getting Kwame off of it. It could be ‘small sample size,’ of course, but it’s a heck of a sample nonetheless.

  34. now, the idea of an 8-1 roadtrip doesn’t seem so farfetched.

  35. Could also be tht the last 2 teams we played don have a dominating interior presence tht Kwame can contain..Bosh is more of a high post guy and the ‘Zards focus on Jamison and Butler on the offensive end with their other guards providing the rest of the offense..

  36. The scoring is just incredibly balanced..and can we please stop calling Ronnie “The Energy Guy”…Dude can seriously ball..21 ft jumpers..makes his own misses…damn,we just got the 1998 version of Kurt Thomas…

  37. Man I was wrong about the quality of defense the Wizards play. At least today it was bad.

    Which is just fine by me.

  38. I’m jus loving Lamar’s stats….14-7-5 on frigging 7-11 shooting..efficient and and doin the usual Lamar thang…yeesh,i love the fact that we’re the team everyone loves to hate…AGAIN…

  39. Great game in general, but Farmar has not had a particularly good game. At all.

    Fortunately it doesn’t matter.

  40. Derek’s been struggling with his shot lately too semingly. But alas, it does not matter.

  41. The Dude Abides February 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Underbruin, re Kwame: if you read most of my posts over the last few days, you’ll realize you’re not the only one.

  42. 38-Lamar’s whole game is different when he makes a few jumpers. Hopefully his confidence improves, but I’ll remain cautious.

  43. What a great game, very exciting. I set my alarm for 9am after getting home after 4am last night only because I couldn’t be the only hardcore Lakers fan to sit through an entire Pau game! Unfroutantely, i saw that he wasn’t playing but I just couldn’t help but stay up and watch the rest of the game. The teams chemistry and energy just looks great. Everyone is so energized.

    Also, it seems like Phil made sure players don’t attract too much attention to the trade because when Vlad was interviewed after the game, he was very quiet and conservative with his thoughts. We know he was excited but he just played off the entire deal like, “well he’s a good player and he’ll contribute plenty hopefully to this team.” O’ well, nice Lakers win and i’m looking forward to the destruction of New Jersey on Tuesday.

  44. If there’s one player that’s stepped up his game in Bynum’s absence it’s been Turiaf. After being pretty much MIA over the first two months of the season (where b/c of injuries or whatever), he’s become a force over the past couple weeks–knocking down jumpers, finishing strong at the rim, blocking shots, and doing all sorts of intangibles. Great to see.

    One other thing–I’m as happy to see Kwame gone as the next person, but I think it’s a mistake to evaluate his capabilities as a player on the basis of what we saw this season. Keep in mind he had surgery in the off-season and came into camp out of shape. Then he gets injured again just as he’s getting back into shape. When in shape, Kwame at this best was the Kwame we saw at the end of the 05-06 season when we took Phoenix to 7 games. Not a great player by any means, but not a scrub either. In some sense, one of his Kwame’s biggest problems is that he’s incredibly fragile in every sense of the word.

  45. 42. I think this is the first game in a while where Odom has hit multiple jumpers. He looks good and looks like he has more confidence in his perimeter game. At one point, I saw Turiaf get really excited and congratulate Odom on one of his jumpers (then again Turiaf celebrates many plays). Nevertheless, this is the best shooting i have seen from Odom in quite a few games- what a great sign.

  46. Kobe smells blood in the water and has murder in his eyes the last two games. He’s played it serious and focused in the press conferences, but seeing him interviewed after the raptors game he couldnt keep the smile off his face. He’s ready.

    But the return of Sasha and Radman has also been a big help. And now we’re getting Pau.

    When Bynum comes back, how do you defend this team? Pheonix couldn’t handle Bynum before and now anything they do to check him will allow Gasol to shine. Duncan has to play Bynum, so Gasol faces Elson. Pay all your attention to the frontcourt and Kobe will kill you. Double off of Fisher and we’ll find him for the 3. Double off Odom and we give him the ball so he can create… And by the way our bench squad will destroy yours.

    I’m not comfortable fitting us for rings just yet- I remember 2004. There’s a reason they play the games, but as a basketball fan I’m just excited to get the chance to watch this team play.

  47. 43. That’s because when AB comes back Pau is taking Vlad’s minutes!

    Question. I hate to say it but… what if Kwame fails the physical. I mean he’s had 2 surgeries and an knee injury this season. There could be some residual problem, undetected until the physical. Anybody know what it takes to pass or fail a physical? With the heat the Grizz’s are getting for this trade, I wouldn’t blame them if they wanted to back out….

  48. Guys I am so incredibly psyched for Tuesday’s game… being in Manhattan for school has no other benefits than a Nets Lakers game – especially one that will see PAU DEBUET IN!

    Look for me up in the rafters @ section 231. The best 36 bucks of my life.

  49. I am absolutely disgusted that Dwyer is out. He has been hands down my #1 nba destination on the web since he went to Yahoo. A travesty.

  50. Update
    ====

    LA Lakers 103, Washington 91
    Kobe Bryant outscored the Washington Wizards all by himself in the first quarter Sunday. Then he let his Los Angeles Lakers teammates in on the fun.

  51. Update 2
    =====

    Gasol shot baskets before the game but did not suit up. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the 2006 All-Star wasn’t quite ready because of a sore back, a whirlwind 48 hours and an unfamiliarity with the team’s offense. “We want him to practice first. He traveled back and forth across the country, up all night, short hours of sleep. This isn’t a fair situation for him,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before Sunday’s game. “We’ll practice tomorrow and see how he feels.” … Jackson talked about donating money to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and mentioned that he “put a plug out for Obama” on his Los Angeles TV show. … The Lakers are three games into a nine-game road trip.

  52. The Dude Abides February 3, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I have to agree with the sentiments about Dwyer’s blog over at Yahoo. I already miss his Shocking Conversations. Those were hilarious, especially the one with C-Webb and Nellie. I also loved our two-headed monster at center today. Combined stats for Turiaf and Mbenga:
    46 Min, 19pts, 57%FG, 75%FT, 9reb, 6ast, 3blk, 0 turnovers

  53. I agree with the comment that this team could have played this way all year, but it took the trade to lift them to this level. The only mitigating factor is that we insisted on starting Kwame over Turiaf and that got things off on the wrong foot. I hope Phil has learned. How about starting Turiaf at center and Pao at PF on Tuesday? We have Mbenga to back up the center and this would put the most pressure on the Nets out of the box.

  54. Van Gundy just now: “I think the Lakers should be have to play just their second unit in their game (against the Heat) in order to give them a chance.”

  55. 50. Craig, let’s not mix up a Spaniard with Chinese cuisine. It’s Pau Gasol–and kung pao shrimp.

    I suspect that Phil will work Pau in step by step–have him play about 20 minutes–at center.

  56. I’m with the commenter who submitted Kupchak for GM of the year. For the record, I agreed that you don’t trade a 19 year old 1st round draft pick who had shown flashes last year for a Jermaine O’Neal who isn’t old but isn’t getting any younger…or anyone else. But kudos to Mitch for either not listening to sports talk radio or ignoring it. Also the Ariza deal was great in getting us an athletic, energetic guy who can play and guard 3-4 (and can certainly guard 5 if need be but probably can handle playing it only in a very tight pinch) and I don’t mind this Gasol trade. Yes, it probably will not prove to be such a steal in the long run because 1st round picks usually don’t completely tank; even if they’re moderately successful, it will probably make the trade justifiable in the long run for the Grizz-and I think Javaris is a sort of Rodney Stuckey/D Wade/ explosive big guard who could really be a big talent. And Kwame is: well Kwame is who we thought he was…..but Gasol gives us such a lethal frontline now. We’re serious serious players overnight. Wow, this reminds me of getting Mychal Thompson back in ’87 and Shaq in ’96.

  57. I hope to God the Pats don’t win, because if they do all we’re going to hear about over the next few months, heading towards the NBA playoffs, is how the Celts have the chance to make Boston the first city to win three major titles in a season (not sure if this is true, but you get the idea), and that makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Or a lot.

  58. Bet Kwame signs a small deal w/Atlanta. It’s home for hom and they could use a big body who doesn’t need to shoot.

    Amazingingly good trade. (Darn it!!!) So much for the lack of big men in today’s NBA. Next yr the West should have Bynum/Gasol,Yao/Scola,Oden/Aldridge,Oberto(Splitter)/Duncan,Ilgaukas/Boozer,Chandler/West and possib Kaman/Brand. If I’m Dallas,Phoenix,Golden State I start wondering how I could possib survive 3 Series against such Big Man Power.

    This yr Lamar stays,but he has to be moved in off-season. Reason being he’s the only reasonable relief for the few clouds on the Lakers’ horizon. The only backup for Kobe is Sasha and the stretch of no First in 3 of 4 yrs keeps you from adding cheap,young talent to the roster.
    The primary need I see now is a back-up for Kobe. Remember all the early panic in Boston over Ray Allen going into his dreaded 12th yr as a guard,and the decline that sets in? Next yr is Kobe’s 12th. Yes he stays in fantastic shape and he didn’t have the college practices/games previous generations had,but he has played in over a season’s worth of PlayOff games. If the Lakers can rest him so he averages 35/36 min/game instaed of his current 38,that’s the equivalent of 4 fewer games played. For that the Lakers need a competent reserve SG.
    I thought that Sasha was a goner after this season,but w/trade of Crit,I now believe Sasha stays as emergency 3rd PG and as third SG.
    It’s hard to envision Radmanovic or Walton being traded,so the Lakers you have now will be the Lakers for the next few yrs-unless Lamar can be traded for a backup SG and a backup Big and/or First Rd pick.

  59. Lamar Odom is back! February 3, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Does anyone else think we need to improve our defense? I don’t know how this trade will help our defense. I guess maybe the height can be a factor, but will it be enough? I would still like to have in the team a defensive specialist. I don’t think Ariza is that guy, and Bynum may become that kind of player, but in how long? If Kobe focuses on his shut-down defense ala USA summer qualifiers style then that would be great, but that would hurt his offense.
    I think only one thing separates us from the Celtics right now, and that’s defense. Our bench is deeper, but who needs a bench when their defense can shut down our offense??? Remember that defense wins championships, and those Celtics have KG anchoring their defense. As good as this team has looked, it looked like the team of the second half of last year’s season when it went up against the Celtics. And keep in mind that the second loss to the Celtics came when this team was already gelling.

  60. Oops, it’s Okur/Boozer in my #55. And Denver has nice bigs-they just can’t stay healthy.

  61. Hey KD, if you read through this thread, email me at natetijion [at] gmail dot com.

  62. The team is fine, don’t worry about defense. All we need now is some gelling. Kobe and Ariza are arguably NBA first team defenders; Ronny, Farmer,Bynum (by next season) will be as good as anybody on the NBA second tier; Sasha, Odom,and Fisher are fine. So I really do not worry much about defense. All Lakers have to do is to install a good defensive scheme ala Boston or Houston, and then work hard on the rotations.

  63. I actually think it might be good to sit Pau on Tuesday, the Nets and Hawks are weak we probably don’t need him to win those games. Also Kobe as well as the rest of the team are really playing inspired basketball right now. As much as I would like to see Pau play just to see what it looks like with him on the floor, his back IS sore, the chemistry won’t really be there after 1 practice on the road, so let him sit and rest, and let Ronny and Mbenga do what they do. Also we don’t need him to hurt himself more before Howard roughs him up. The only real problem is the fact that its back to back and an extra body would be good to rest some of the regulars.

    But i definitely won’t be complaining if he makes a cameo on Tuesday or Wednesday but the real treat will be him and Bynum anchoring us down there.

  64. I hope the Lakers sign DJ for the rest of the season. He looked solid with 6 points, 6 boards, and 2 blocks in 14 minutes of play. And he hustles and can actually dunk! (unlike that someone who just got traded for Kung-Pau chicken…) He’d make a formidable backup center, imo. The whole team played inspired ball, and were energized in part due to the trade. And Kobe…he’s giving fans in the East their money’s worth, and making a mockery of the Eastern Conference (as Bill Walton put it in the Dallas/Detroit halftime show). Life’s great as a Laker fan and I’m still high from that trade due to the thought that the championship isn’t as far as I thought it was before this season started.

  65. The smile Kobe had after the Raptors game says it all. He just practically kow-towed to Kupchak and is seriously enjoying where he is now. I mean, he had glimmers of hope and fun with Bynum, and now he sees Pau? He must be feeling a lot like Pierce, except that his teammates are younger!

    Ah this is just so much fun. I don’t care if the Pau thing ends up being a bust, the few weeks of sheer delirium is worth it.

  66. Half time. Giants are crushing Brady… and got me thinking… When was the last time a team had three players who were the best players in his draft class?

    1996. No doubt that KB is the class of the draft and would have gone #1 in a do-over. (Iverson, Camby, SAR went 1,2,3 )

    2001. Pau is the class of the draft by far. (Kwame, Chandler, Gasol )

    2004. This is the closest and some might pick Paul. But I bet on a do-over, knowing what they know now, most NBA GM’s pick Bynum #1 (Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams)

    The last team, I can think of with such a make-up was the show time Lakers. KAJ, Magic, Worthy.

  67. With apologies to the Beach Boys:

    I’m not braggin’, so don’t put me down
    But the Lakers got a new set of bigs that they found
    When the competition sees us they won’t even try
    When the Celtics heard, they started to cry

    We call it Mitch Kupchak’s coup
    You don’t know what we’ve got

    Mitch Kupchak’s coup got us ‘Drew and Gasol
    drafted Sasha, Jordan, Ronny and that’s not all,
    found Trevor Ariza for Evans and Cook
    resigned Derek, added VladRad, to close the book

    We call it Mitch Kupchak’s coup
    You don’t know what weve got

    Phil can select the right “four on the floor”
    And they play like a unit to a “Staples roar”
    And if that aint enough to make you flip your lid
    There’s that mamba guy–and we call him Kobe

    Coming on the court when its time to play
    watch them drive, dish, shoot, and score all day
    Fans get bent out of shape but they want to squeal
    to a Bynum block or a Farmar steal

    We call it Mitch Kupchak’s coup
    You don’t know what weve got

    We call it Mitch Kupchak’s coup
    You don’t know what we’ve got

  68. drrayeye… noice

  69. @59 (Stephen); I don’t agree on Odom. I don’t see the need to move him. I’d rather move Walton or Radman. Odom brings a lot more and doesn’t need to score to have an impact.

    As for this team now, I thought they could beat anyone in the league when healthy before this trade (except maybe Boston since we haven’t played well against them at all). With this trade though, and Bynum/Ariza healthy, I think the sky’s the limit.

    Today’s game was fun. Kobe was all over the place in that first half and was just unstoppable. I too like DJ MBenga and hope they sign him for the season. I think Phil has some real tough decisions to make when Ariza comes back because he needs to play and either Radman or Luke is gonna be hurting for minutes at the 3. I guess it’s a good problem to have.

    And what about that Machine? He has been playing awesome lately.

  70. Lets plan for next year, shall we?

    There was a report that the Lakers “refused” an offer of Mike Miller + Hakim Warrick for Lamar Odom. While I have an inclination to like Miller, I think Mitch did a good job trying to see what his big 4 will look like against the powerhouses before dangling Lamar Odom to another trade.

    On to the numbers…

    With the acquisistion of Pau Gasol, the Lakers have put themselves into the luxury tax territory in the next 2 years. A payroll of roughly 72m this year (means Buss has committed to paying the lux tax this year and next) and over 75m next year. I say we see how our new team figures and deal with the 75m when we get there.

    Totalling 72m means the Lakers will be paying a tax amount of 4-5m plus the expected opportunity loss in not being able to accept the pro-rated bonus amount for staying behind the line. Safe to say, Pau Gasol is a 10m gamble this year and another 15m next year.

    However, with such an exciting team at hand, with almost guaranteed to go deep into the playoffs, the Lakers are expecting to haul more money from attendance and marketing about Millions from Pau Gasol jerseys and other merchandise. I say its even this year given the hype. I am surfing the Net for my own Pau #16 in Purple. I love em Laker road jerseys.

    With the Lakers already way over the tax line for next year, how do we figure Ronny, Sasha, Coby, DJ and Chris?

    The NBA mandates at least 12 players on the roster. As we know, Mitch likes it at 14 (he’s VERY lucky with this) and so with 10 players with guaranteed contracts, we need to figure what to do with Ronny and Sasha. I think both players can be negotiated for 2-3m per to keep the group together. I think Ronny will be getting several offers from other teams. The question I ask would be – if one team (say Memphis or Philly) offers him the full MLE, given that he is a RFA, do we chase after him and add a full 5.5m to our payroll? Can we afford to lose him?

    Sasha meanwhile would be utterly jobless at the start of the season had the Lakers not took the team option. I think he will be one of the 1st to re-up his contracts and I would be very happy to see him back. IMO, he is Kobe’s ideal backup.

    What about an insurance at 3rd PG? Any suggestions? We do not have a pick in the 1st round next summer and I think the best way to acquire a 3rd PG is through free agency.

  71. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    boston sucks.
    (the only time i’ll ever root for a New York team…)

  72. giants win superbowl!!! i hope this is a precursor that celtics won’t win it all this year as well!!! GO LAKERS!!!!

  73. Bahahahaha. Screw the Red Sox, Screw the Patriots, and Screw the Celtics.

    Next upset, Lakers vs. Cletics 2008.

  74. Emma,
    God has answered your (and my) prayer. As Ice Cube put it, “Today Was a Good Day.”

  75. Why are you planning for next year already? Seriously? What the hell is wrong with Lakers fans — 48 hours ago we pulled off the biggest trade in the NBA if years and already all anyone can do is try to figure out the next trade or start playing off-season GM. It infuriates me that we can’t just seem to enjoy something.

  76. There will still be a couple of bumps in the road this year and we fans will probably go ballistic at the first sign of any trouble. That being the case, I suggest we cool our jets about other players and limit our discussions to how Phil should manage the lineup.

    Kurt, let’s get something up on the Nets so we can get started on the next game early.

  77. Seriously Kurt.
    This moment is one of those, “I remember when when I called all of my friends about the trade that got us back on track to elite status.”

    And now people are worrying about making more moves???? What is wrong with you people. Be content with what we have and let’s develop some chemistry on offense and especially on defense. B/c that’s what wins championships not an endless trade exhibition.

    We have the talent just like Kobe said, now it’s time to put the work on the floor. Enjoy the ride!!!!

  78. Lamar Odom is back! February 3, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    It’s ok, Kurt. EVERYONE is in LOVE with what just happened to us fans. Someone thinking about the future is just their way of showing how much they loved the trade. Everyone expresses themselves differently. Just chill, enjoy the ride, and let people be. Sip on your scotch! Or whiskey. Or wine. Whatever!

    What I’m kind of bummed about is having such a great team now and probably not being able to enjoy this postseason, as I’m planning on leaving the country for a good while. I just hope I can somehow keep up with the news. This site will be good for that. But the way I see it, I’ve already witnessed the most beautiful part: I’ve seen the players grow and mature into winners.

  79. Everyone is psyched, and now are worried about keeping the team together. That’s where next year thoughts come in. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy what we have now?

    But we do have many questions that needs to be answered, especially if Buss isn’t willing to pay the luxury tax.

  80. so staying focused on this year…
    what will be the starting 5?
    c-bynum
    pf – pau
    sf – LO
    sg- KB
    pg-fish

    first rotations in?
    c-Ronnie? (or Mbenga? or Pau? depends on matchups)
    pf – Vlad? (or LO, or Ronnie, in variations)
    sf- trevor? ( I guess Luke at times?)
    sg- machine?
    pg- farmar?

    so what happens to luke?
    or Mihm?…Mbenga? Karl?
    who am I forgetting?
    talk about a deep team?
    I could see guys like Trevor being put on the opponents greatest weapon, when it’s a Sf, or SG, Lebron, Manu, wade, etc… like to see him develop a nice 3 pts shot, become our new Cooper.

  81. @76, Kurt

    The biggest trade in years? Did this offseason not happen and Garnett is still playing for Minnesota? I mean, Kwame for Gasol is a great addition to the team and all but it’s not worst in the league to first in the league.

  82. Fair enough, the KG trade and what that has done to the Celtics was probably bigger, although Boston certainly gave up more as well (Jefferson is a legit big and young).

    I don’t think the reaction is “people wanting to keep the team together” because of all the “now we should trade Lamar” crap that was getting posted (and the number of other trade comments I deleted in the last couple days). What it is, to me, is people like to invent trades and try to play GM at home, and to me that often cuts into being a fan. Now, just to be contradictory, here are my quick thoughts on the two most common comments along these lines:

    Kidd is not a serious upgrade over what we have at PG right now, if any upgrade at all (remember he cursed the triangle offense the half season he played it in Dallas), and he is certainly not an upgrade at the insane contract he has. I don’t think he helps us at this point, especially how crappy he has played this year (maybe he can turn that around, but I’m not going to bet a quality player in a trade on it, the only guy I would have moved for him was Kwame and filler, and Pau fits our needs much better and is much younger).

    Re: Odom. If I’m Mitch, yes he’s available but not until this summer, and then only if you blow me away. And I don’t think anybody will. For all people’s frustrations with him (he is not a #2 guy), he is a great player to blend with what we have. He will grab boards and his solid 14-8 fits great now. He can have big games, and his versatility is key to the great versatility the roster has now. When Buss approved this trade he realized the luxury tax implications.

    I’ll have a new post up tomorrow morning and hopefully some of this “now we have to do this” stuff will die down.

  83. Wow, a guy goes away for the weekend and all hell breaks loose.

  84. Woah, Kurt, I’m not sure why you seem more upset by this than usual (although to be fair, tone is hard to judge over the internets) …

    Fans will be fans. We’ll always speculate on blogs because we love talking about our team, and because we don’t actually have a say in any of the decisions. And I believe we all want our team to be the best — When people have different ideas about that, that’s where the “now we have to do this” posts come in.

    For my part, I could never play armchair GM because 1) I don’t have the acumen and 2) I don’t have the heart. I miss every single player that’s ever been with the Lakers. Yes, including Brian Cook and Kwame Brown.

  85. Two out of many high points
    at the end of a busy sports
    weekend–
    *the deification of Brady is on ice.
    *the Grizzlies P.A. announcer
    no longer gets to growl out
    Pau Gasol’s name far into
    the change of possession.
    That alone is worth the signing.
    – 5 -

  86. Mike in the Mountain West February 4, 2008 at 2:24 am

    “What it is, to me, is people like to invent trades and try to play GM at home, and to me that often cuts into being a fan.” -Kurt

    I cordially disagree with you about the relevance speculating has to being a fan. I think it’s only natural for some fans to speculate how to turn their team into a champion. We all want to win championships and if you’re team hasn’t shown that it is there yet then it’s a part of fan nature to speculate how you’re going to get there. I doubt there are many Spurs fans throwing out trades because the Spurs as constructed have shown they can be champions. I also think this natural tendency is encouraged by the rules placed around trading and caps. They turn it into a game or puzzle, a puzzle many people find quite fun to try to put together. I also think its why fantasy sports games are so popular.

    Now, this of course is your blog. So if you want to limit cap, trade, signing, etc. speculation then that’s your prerogative and I agree it easily gets out of hand, but at least for me it really enhances the fan experience because I feel more involved in the team. It helps me understand the team more, and it puts the team in the context of the whole league and how hard it is to put together a champion. Basically it provides me a different kind of enjoyment from watching the team (which, since I no longer live in LA, I don’t get to do that often) and even if it’s an illusion I feel like less of an observer and more a part of the team.

    Now, because the written word can come sometimes come across as more negative than is intended (mostly because of the skill of the writer not the facility of the english language) I want to make sure that it’s known I only say this to give some insight into what I think being a fan is. It is not meant in any way as an attack or is written with negative feelings. This disclaimer may seem a little gratuitous but better safe than sorry, right?

  87. @67 don’t forget about Chris Paul, who most people would probably take #1.

    As for the whole trade speculation thing: I’m usually inclined to agree that talking about trade possibilities is a lot of fun, however, I then start to think about how annoying it is to just sit and skim through 50 posts in a row from self-made GM’s. So, I find this site to be somewhere to get away from all the trade crap and just talk about basketball that’s actually going on.

  88. Don’t know if this has been linked to yet. Here are Tex Winter’s thoughts on the trade via Roland Lazenby . . .

    ‘It’s easy, then, to understand why Winter’s elated at the trade for center/forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. “Gasol’s a real player, particularly offensively,” Winter confirmed. “He knows how to score. He’s got great hands, and he’ll fit in nicely too. We can get him the ball in position where he has the opportunity.” With the development of center Andrew Bynum before his recent knee injury, Kobe Bryant reminded Lakers fans that he knows well how to play off a big man who can catch and score . . . .’

    http://www.sportshubla.com/2008/02/03/winter-ecstatic-about-gasol-but-he-wants-odom-to-play-better/#more-352

  89. When I watched this team the last two games it’s like they finally BELIEVE that they are a championship caliber team. Even though Pau wasn’t playing, the team has elevated their play. They BELIEVE.

  90. muddywood,
    I think you put your finger on the current player attitude. What I hope is that they do not relax for the remainder of this road trip. This is a really good team – without Pau Gasol – and without Kwame Brown, if we only continue to move and cut. I think (hope) Turiaf has proved his worth to Phil over the last two games. When he is practically the only option to start the game at center, he has proved to be a real addition and we fans wonder why he couldn’t have started against Detroit. Yeah, I hear the stock answers, but didn’t the Giants also win the Super Bowl. Turiaf can really play against taller centers. His style does bother them and take them out of their rhythm. Now that we have Lamar to back up Pau, why not start Rony?

  91. the nice thing too about playing shorthanded, besides seeing Ronnie getting the starting role and extended minutes, is seeing Radman growing in his role, playing with even more confidence in his shot, passing, cutting, etc.
    it does seem to me that even without Pau, the team looks and plays better without Kwame. I think this is a great example of addition by subtraction. when Kwame was out there, not only did he hurt the team with his turnovers, missed dunks, missed FT’s etc, but you could see the hesitation to pass it in to hm, and that would disrupt the flow of the offense, just enough, to cause the team to be ineffective, and you could make the same case for the D.
    now, in the greatest of all scenarios, not only do we see the benefit of addition by subtraction, but we also get to see by tomorrow night, the added EXTRA fo addition by addition, a very rare case indeed.

  92. Ok guys. I keep reading article after article about Pau’s greatness and the failure that is Kwame Brown – and I wonder… what was kwame Brown doing this summer as his up and coming rival took to the weight room?

    Like, is Andrew Bynum the only one who could hit the gym and feel the pressure of being the best he could be… Doesn’t brown WANT to dominate.

    Yeah, he’s gone now.. But, how do you understand a guy like that, I mean you know the crowd WANTS to find a reason to chant your name… Don’t you WANT them to?

  93. (92)

    Kwame spent the summer recovering from off-season surgery to his ankle. His biggest problem this season was not that he didn’t have enough strength in his upper body, but his lack of aerobic fitness and jumping ability. This is not to say that Kwame would have outworked Bynum had he not had the surgery, and all evidence suggests that his work ethic is terrible, but let’s be fair.

  94. Samy,
    There are plenty of other players in the league besides Kwame who don’t put in the effort to improve their game. I don’t think basketball players are different in that regard than people in any other profession. A lot of people are comfortable with mediocrity; it’s not worth the effort to them to raise the level of their performance. Throw in the fact that Kwame is set for life financially if he handled his money reasonably well. I also think that (playing internet psychologist here) Kwame is insecure; my observation is that people like that feel safer not giving 100%. That gives them something to fall back on (an “out”) if they don’t succeed. I think the same theory applies to Shaq to some degree.

  95. Wow…….if we had to redo that draft……Bynum or Chris Paul or Deron Williams…….hmmm………that is a great debate. Chris and Deron would be great next to Kobe! But a big man like Bynum are hard to come by………especially if he continues to develop. Dunno………that is a tough one! Anyway, glad to see the Giants win…….great Super Bowl!

  96. exhelodrvr,
    Good point. Shaq is an example of a supremely talented athlete who could stay on top for a long length of time without pushing himself hard, outside of his games. He had the body (like Kawame) that most athletes would kill for. However, he just wasn’t focused/disciplined enough to take care of it like, say Kareem. The result is that he started breaking down before his time and he wasn’t able to stay reasonably healthy for an entire season over the last several years. If it hadn’t been for the Laker’s trading him I doubt he would have lasted this long. That was a godsend for Shaq’s conditioning.

  97. 59 – Sasha as an emergency 3rd stringer? You’re kidding me, right?

    Have you watched the quality of basketball lately by Sasha? He is shooting 42% from 3 point land this season (and much better lately), and don’t think the kid can’t play good on-the-ball defense either.

    Sasha isn’t a superstar by any means, but the kid has big balls and deadly accuracy. We need both those traits to beat San Antonio/Dallas/Phoenix. Kobe LOVES this kid, by the way.

    I am giddy about Sasha Vujacic, and i am not afraid to sing his praises. He is a key part of our bench. We must resign him.

  98. 87. I get that, and I enjoy some speculation about future moves, whether they be moves due to the tax or trades or whatever. I also have seen this and other sites become overwhelmed by those types of debates, and so here I try to corral it, keeping it out of most posts and talking about trades/signings more in those times of year and when there are serious talks in the works. (Which was what was great and odd about the Gasol trade, it was totally out of the blue to the public.)

    Sometimes I get frustrated with that effort to corral that talk, particularly because I feel I correct and delete comments from the same people over and over. And, so, I vented. Probably didn’t come off well, but I just needed to do that I guess. But the point that speculating on these things is part of being a fan certainly is true, and maybe I need to find a way to allow some (more) of that without letting it dominate the talk.

  99. Mike in the Mountain West February 4, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I hear you on how frustrating it must be to try to keep the trade speculation down to a minimum and I think i speak for most of us when I say we really appreciate it. I like the Kamentzky brothers over at the LA times Lakers blog but I can’t stand the comments because they are so undisciplined and filled with trade talk.

    Maybe when times arise, like the Pau trade, that get some of us in a frenzy to play GM you can dedicate thread to trade speculation. It could be like a trade ghetto. You wouldn’t need to do it often but it might help to corral all that talk where it won’t hurt the broader conversation when the trade talk really starts to flow. Just a thought.

    And I agree the the suddenness of the Pau trade was exciting. I’m not sure how they were able to keep it a secret since they talked for a week about it.