Preview and Chat: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  February 10, 2008

Records: Lakers 28-16 (6 seed); Heat 9-39
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.9 (4th); Heat 102.3 (28th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.7 (9th); Heat 110.4 (25th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladamir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Heat: Jason Williams, Some Guy Not In My Fave Five, Shaun Marion, Dorell Wright, Mark Blount

Hanging with Ronny and Jordan: Really, are there two other Lakers you’d want to spend some time with? On a recent road trip the Lakers.com staff gave a video camera to Ronny Turriaf and let him (and Jordan Farmar) tape “a day in the life” and the video is now up. Great stuff again from Lakers.com, which has done a great job this season breaking down the wall between the team and its fans.

Lakers Notes: The win in Orlando was a lot of fun to watch, very entertaining game. For us fans. I doubt the coaches looked at it that way. That was a painfully sloppy game on defense — Orlando had an offensive rating of 125.6 (the Lakers were 130). The Lakers can be very bad about recognizing the shooters on the floor – they were sagging off the Magic’s best three-point guys (especially early) and making odd choices. At one point in the second quarter, Jameer Nelson drove the lane and Pau Gasol did not rotate off of Foyle to take away the lay-up — again, not recognizing the most dangerous player.

The defense of late is bothering me, but the great offense with Pau is covering it up for now. And the Lakers are still without two of their three best defenders (Bynum and Ariza), so help is on the way. Here are a few other quick thoughts from the game:

• Both Dwight Howard and Kobe had monster first quarter dunks. Has anyone ever thrown it down harder than Howard? I don’t think Dominique Wilkins did, and he was the first guy to leap to my mind.

• As was pointed out at Third Quarter Collapse, it would have been funny if that second quarter verbal spat between Sasha and JJ Reddick had come to blows. Worst fight in professional sports history.

• Don’t you just love how smart Pau is on offense? He almost always recognizes where the mismatch is and gets the ball there.

• As Craig W. pointed out in the comments, one year Elgin Baylor and Jerry West AVERAGED better than 30 points per game for the Lakers. We tend to think of them as GMs and forget they are two of the all time great players.

The Heat Coming In: On the Kamenetzky brother’s podcast the other day, I echoed what many have said about the Shaq trade from the Miami perspective — it rid them of the anchor holding back rebuilding process.

But it also should make them a better team right now. With D Wade and Marion the Heat now have two of the best finishers on the break in the Association. The Heat have not been a running team this season — their 90 possessions per game put them dead in middle of the league at 15th — but Riley should now release the hounds. Also, Marion should improve the Heat defense, giving them a quality perimeter defender (I expect he will get key minutes on Kobe today).

They also get a boost at backup (and maybe eventually starting) point guard with Marcus Banks. I may be the only person in America who thinks so, and he wasn’t what they hoped in Phoenix, but I still think he can be a solid starting PG in this league (something Miami needs).

The Heat have not been good at either end of the floor, but the problems on offense are glaring. There is only on player — Mr. Wade — with a PER above the league average of 15. Sure, that stat is really just a snapshot, but in this case it’s a pretty ugly photo. (To be fair, Shaq and Alonzo Mourning were both above 15, but they are both gone now.)

Keys To The Game: The Shaq of 2008 may be a shadow of the Shaq of 2000, but when the alternative is Mark Blount you still lose something at both ends of the court. The Heat have very little of quality inside the paint and the Lakers should be able to get a huge offensive night from Gasol — he will torch Blount if not doubled, and if he is doubled he passes incredibly well out of the post. Adding to the Heat woes, Alexander Johnson (another decent big body) is out with an ankle sprain.

The Heat offense has not been great this year because it’s been all Wade all the time, and if it’s just one player any team can slow him some. All the pressure on Wade has also meant his turnovers are up (13% of his used possessions end in a turnover this season). The Lakers should be able to get some turnovers and convert those into easy points on the other end.

This is another game the Lakers bench should help them pull away. And the Lakers want to pull away. You don’t want Wade with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game at the end.

Where you can watch: Game time is 12:30 pm (Pacific) and we will all be watching on ABC. I just want to see lots of Lost promos, and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

Kurt

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80 responses to Preview and Chat: The Miami Heat

  1. I LOVE this team of late, but the only thing that concerns me has been the shot selection of Kobe during games, especially late in the 4th quarter (ie Cleveland). I feel he has a tendency to try to take over by himself and force shots, instead of spreading the offense and getting the better shot with all of the great shooters this team has. Anyone feel the same way?

  2. Lakers.com went from being a site that I never visited to being a site I check multiple times a day, all because of the amazing videos they put up (especially the interviews from practice). Anyway this could be a pretty big day for Pau, he should have his way in single coverage and has shown finding the open man when doubled isn’t really an issue.

  3. Lakers Bringing Fear To The NBA February 10, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Should blow the Heat later. The only way they can lose is if Wade and Marion have a HUGE game. Doubt that though since Marion doesnt really know about the Heat system yet but with his talent and abilities…he probably can get some big points. Lakers should definitely win the bench wars since they have a way better/productive bench than Miami. If all goes well, this game would be out of reach by the halftime.

  4. That was a hilarious video, it’s always great to see a little insight on the players’ lives. I guess Jordan, LO, Ronny, and Luke form a little clique on the team and maybe that is a reason for the cohesiveness on the 2nd unit.

    You know what Miami should do? They’re not making the playoffs this year, so unleash old Jason Williams and make this team run again. His coaches (Hubie Boring) have made him fundamentally sound, while this is usually the right way to play they need to cut him loose. With Marion and Wade as finishers this team needs to run. Maybe Banks was taking notes on Nash on how to make his team run otherwise this team should just shut down Wade for the season.

    Kobe goes for 25, Gasol 28 Lakers win by 12.

  5. Jeez that video was hilarious. It makes me miss being on a basketball team so much. Kidding around and hanging out with your teammates before and after games and practice is half the fun (even on the high school or college levels). I watched the part where they made fun of Coby Karl about 4 times in a row. So damn funny. “Hey, I’m Coby Karl…George’s son…” Hahahaha.

  6. Riley is going to ruin Wade’s career much like Mike Martz ruined the careers of Marshall Faulk and Kyle Turley. You cannot play your superstars with debilitating injuries.

    Aside from that, Pau should take advantage of the match-up and find the open shooter. The Lakers cannot get lazy on offense and stand around and watch this game. If the Heat decide to run, they will give the Lakers 3 pt looks and run in transition off the misses.

  7. as for the dunk, it did remind me of that one dunk shawn kemp did… that’s on every highlight reel. the one that he dunks and points at the defender.

  8. Kurt, you should add a spell-check rule or something for “Vladamir”. It’s “Vladimir” (one ‘a’, two ‘i’s) Radmanovic. I notice this typo a lot. Speaking of our favorite Martian, he’s been playing well of late, seemingly comfortable enough in the offense to do more than take long, spot-up jumpers (which he’s been hitting).

  9. I would look for Ronny to have a big game today. My gut feeling is that the Lakers’ coaching staff will be looking for a confidence-builder for him and the rest of the bench, and so I would expect him to get at least a few dunks off cuts to the basket–especially if he gets any number of minutes with both Kobe and Gasol on the floor.

  10. I can’t wait to see Kobe vs. Shaq in the playoffs. That shaq trade was good. Even if it doesn’t work out for the Suns it was good, cuz they took a chance. Rather than not going to the Finals for sure they took a chance and now we’ll see what happens. But it would be so dramatic if Kobe and Shaq met in the playoffs.

  11. If you want to do a little pre-game reading, check out this article on the Lakers’ international flair:
    http://www.sbsun.com/ci_8213369?source=most_viewed

    And chris h posted this link last nite at 2 am, so I’m guessing a lot of people missed it. A very nice article about Mbenga:
    http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=7335

  12. Kurt, what’s with the Lakers’ record? It was wrong in the Orlando preview too.

  13. On a side note, Marion’s first name is spelled ‘Shawn’ not ‘Shaun.’ Gee, I wonder who that guy not in your fave five is…

    “Hi I’m Coby Karl and I’m George’s son.” – LO in a high pitched voice

  14. Marion’s effectiveness is correlated to his team’s pace. Even pre-Nash, the Suns were a fast-paced team. Faster pace creates more chaos, loose balls, and more opportunities for the human pogo-stick, Marion. A highly structured system does not suit Marion. The problem is that no other Heat player, including Wade, is equipped to run…oh except for Banks.

  15. Look at the Suns upcoming schedule:

    http://www.nba.com/suns/schedule/

    Washington, Golden State, Boston, Detroit…

    This is the Lakers chance to take the lead in the pacific for good.

  16. Kurt, Dwight throws some dunks down pretty hard but Shaq i think has the most powerful slams, during his earlier years he threw down some scary dunks, some would have seriously hurt some people if they were standing under the rim. Like the one that took the whole basket down in one piece.

  17. This is not a gimme game, the Heat will come out with intensity, at least early. We cannot build a lead and give it back

  18. Gosh I love how hard the Celtics play defense. They are going to be a tough out in the playoffs just for that reason alone. And the crazy thing is they don’t even have Garnett out there to fire them out. Hopefully the Lakers learn how to play with that kind of intensity on the defensive side of the ball.

  19. Tom Thibodeau is the MVP of the Celtics. Fortunately for the rest of the league, he’ll probably get a head coaching gig for next year. Good system (quasi zone), great coaching, and excellent effort.

  20. Maybe Garnett’s injury will insure that he’s fresh when the playoffs start.

  21. Wow, Boston is 16-0 vs. the western conference…that’s kind of scary

  22. Am I the only one that is a bit surprised that they are eating gorgonzola sauce and pizza on game day?

    Neither seem like a good foodchoice when u have an important game in a few hours.

    I can’t picture Kobe eating a pizza before a game..

    Maybe I’m overreacting, it just struck me as a little odd.

  23. Ok, so what’s up with the Lakers being unable to effectively deal with these fast-break runs by the Heat?

  24. Kurt, I too think Banks could be an NBA PG,esp w/a Wade,McGrady,LeBron who handle the ball most of the time anyway. At minimum he should be a high-energy,good D second PG.
    As for Heat running,Wright is good finisher and passer on break.
    At work right now but Lakers should blow out Heat,esp since Wade has been mailing it in recently.

  25. This is not the Magic. Pack it in. Let them brick and grab the rebound.

  26. The MACHINE!!!!

  27. You beat me to it Matt…The MACHINE

  28. The machine.

  29. Its mechanic!

  30. Wow I had to mute the TV, their is just to much BS coming out of these guy’s mouth too fast.

  31. M A C H I N E

    Someone please make some purple and gold Machine T-Shirts. They will definitely sell.

  32. The rest of the bench has gotta pick it up, especially on D

  33. obligatory embarrasing block of Walton shot…check

  34. Seriously, the guy has the vertical of a turkey and yet never decides to pass out of the clobbering that is most of his post-ups.

  35. I think Marion is ready to explode as a featured player. He’s been waiting for this opportunity for a while. Plus, remember that he is playing for an extension.

    Speaking of Miami, I think the Heat and the Clippers should talk trade:

    http://jonesonthenba.blogspot.com/2008/02/clippers-and-heat-should-start-talking.html

  36. Jones – your podcasts are so damned awesome, I listen to them on the way to class everyday – too bad Kurt never allows dumb trade requests from fans or else I’d email you something. hahaha

  37. #33……lol.

    What is up with Luke? Is it me, or does it seem like he has been out of sync all season?

    Vlad and LO make me forget they are on the court sometimes….

    I miss Ariza. He usually stops the bleeding with a great defensive play or steal…..he gives us some hard-nosed defense that neither Luke nor Vlad provide.

    I’m sure we’ll win today……..just a bit worried about our defense.

  38. This is shaping up as a dangerous game. You can’t toy with a 9 win team – you have to try to crush them. So far, only Kobe and Sasha is playing with any energy. The first 5 minutes of the 3rd will be important. This team has no outside shot. Go under every screen, and deny penetration.

  39. 36- Exactly. We have been winning games (washington, toronto, orlando) by outscoring our opponents. I love the way we are playing offense, but we have to be more committed to defense, especially stopping penetration and rotating

  40. 36) Those aren’t my podcasts. Those are the basketball Jones podcasts. They’re produced by that crazy Canadian, JE Skeets.

  41. Yeah I realized that after clicking on your post – good look though and enjoy your last year of law school.

  42. WOW

    Kobe once again proves that he is the best man defender in the world.

  43. Luke’s knowledge of the tri got him a few layups. Rad still doesn’t know how to make the base line cut off the pinch post…. I guess Luke’s ankle must feel better.

  44. 39 wins the award for longest non-functional link of all time
    try using tinyurl.com if you can

  45. Some serious A/V problems with today’s telecast. I’m almost tempted to mute the TV.

  46. Another MVP chant

  47. That was a good win, I was worried about this game…you just knew Marion was going to come in and fire up the Heat. Wish the late Miami run could have been avoided, but you have to like the Lakers winning every quarter and having every player with a + in the +/- column.

    Great work on the glass by Lamar. Anyone notice how much better his jump shot has looked lately? I still think he should use it judiciously, but it’s good to see him getting his legs underneath him, especially on the midrange looks.

  48. Also, the left-handed hook by Kobe was nice!

  49. Lets talk about gasol’s left handed hook with 1:20 left – that was nice.

  50. This was an efficient win, with Gasol, Lamar, and Kobe quietly doing their damage.

    I really don’t like our ‘devil may care’ defense. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t.

  51. Why do you think Kobe’s dunking more?

  52. That foul by Kobe on the break was scary. Any other player, its a flagrant foul. Kobe almost fell on his back. Wade’s last minute attempt to break Kobe’s fall, which he failed to do, saved a flagrant 1. All in all, the Lakers just failed to play down to the level of their opponents. Marion was pretty good, esp the first half. But Odom out played him, as usual.

  53. With Pau Gasol and Lamar’s increased efficiency, teams cannot assign as many people to Kobe and his path to the hoop is clearer. Thus, he can drive without damage to his body. Also, with Lamar and Gasol pulling down rebounds he is getting into the open floor more.

  54. 8. I have no idea why I keep doing that. But I’ll try to stop.

    12. The Lakers record is wrong because, well, I did that part after midnight and a couple beers. I’ll have that right tommorow.

    13. Marion should spell his name the way I want him to. But, that’s another one I always seem to get wrong. At least he’s not with the Suns so I have to type it less.

    16. Great point about Shaq. Sometimes you forget about his younger version.

    On another note, somebody is going to lose minutes with the Gasol trade and Ariza coming back. Right now, Luke may be that guy, he is not earning the time on the floor. Injury or not, it comes down to performance.

  55. When Bynum and Ariza come back, I kind of like the idea of starting Radmanovic at the 3, and having a second unit of Farmar / Vujacic / Ariza / Odom / Turiaf.

    Starting Vlade puts another shooter on the floor with Kobe and Pau, and bringing Odom off the bench keeps him at the 4 and gives the second unit a big upgrade.

  56. The idea of putting Odom on the 2nd team has long been discussed even at the time when we still didn’t have Pau. Now that we do, its even better. We will now have 2 separate teams whom we could scrimmage during practice. The only difference is that Luke will somehow be lost in the shuffle. I guess the time when Trevor is still out is his time to prove himself worthy of the rotation. Otherwise I’d bury him in the bench and reserve him for some other contingencies…

  57. 56, agreed, made the same point in an earlier thread. Fish and Rad spotting up in the corners, Kobe running the pick and roll with Gasol, setting him up for the mid range J or slashing and throwing up the oop to Bynum or perhaps feeling spicy enough to throw it down himself = thing of beauty

    If Odom is as sensitive as people make him seem, Phil could start him and pull him early to get Vlad some time with the starters unit, and then send him back out with the reserves

  58. Solid Laker win, but now that Odom is doing well where are his praises? He almost always hovers around a triple double (15,18, 6). Once Bynum and Ariza come back why not have a stacked front line essentially full of 7 footers? If Lamar can cover the sf then we’ll control the defensive boards. The only reason I’d move him out of the line up is if he doesn’t close out or rotate to open spot up shooters. But it seems that Lamar is finally healthy and confident in his jumper. He’s got a good lift in his shot and the results are showing it.

    I agree with you Kurt,
    Luke is the odd man out. He hasn’t really earned his minutes and is bound to be the guy to lose out. His foot speed is slow and it shows badly on defense. The cure Ariza…his shot is still aloof…the solution THE MACHINE or THE MARTIAN. I love luke’s intelligence but he needs to get healthy so let him sit out.

    Finally, I’d also like to cut Kobe’s minutes down as he’s avg’d a whole lot this road trip. In just his last 3 games its been 37, 46, and 42. We’re really deep so let our bench shine and exhibit our versatility. I’m not complaining I’m actually enjoying this… but I’d rather be enjoying this and a fresh Kobe running towards a championship.

  59. Since we’re talking about Luke, how ridiculous is it that our starting SF from last year is now our 11th man? I’m not sure if you can get more depth than that..

  60. Lamar is benefiting greatly from the acquisition of Gasol. Odom’s stats in this game seem almost perfect.

    Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that he is actually playing any better. He still takes those “Oh! No! Dumb” 3 pointers. One of the ways he got rebounds on this game was to be beat by Shawn Marion for a baseline drive, forcing Gasol to cover, causing Marion to miss, leaving Odom all alone for the rebound. Etc.

    On the other hand, by not being so closely guarded, Lamar found more ways to get legitimate rebounds as well as give and receive assists. And, due to loose coverage, his shooting percentage was good.

  61. Dallas and San Antonio both lost tonight. Phoenix is ahead right now and they are probably going to win against the Wizards.

    Anyone else feel that our biggest rivals are going to be the Suns? I am starting to really hate them.

  62. 61: Did you say starting to hate the Suns? – my man, it’s been in your genes for years.

  63. >

    For now, and until someone goes back in a time machine and takes away their four championships in the past nine years, our biggest rivals are the Spurs, even though I’d put an asterisk on last year’s title due to the commissioner’s office directly intervening in the Spurs-Suns series. The Suns have exactly zero titles in the past nine years (and in the team’s entire history), so IMO one needs to give the Spurs their earned respect. They’re the champions until they get knocked off. I do hate them more than the Suns, though, and I hate the Celtics even more.

  64. Travis Y – 59
    Don’t get me wrong, I love Odom as much as anyone. He’s versatile offensively, a good playmaker, a terrific rebounder, and a solid defender at the 4. Plus, I still remember last year’s playoff series against the Suns when we were getting our (butts) handed to us. Odom was a warrior in that series. He never gave up, had several huge performances, and thoroughly outplayed Shawn Marion. I love the guy.

    I just don’t think he’s the best option at small forward. He doesn’t defend the 3 as well as the 4, and he’s not a shooter, even though he hits the occasional three. I don’t know, I could be wrong, but I just think he would function better by staying at the 4, and doing that means coming off the bench. Plus, because he’s such a good player, he would take an already good second unit and make it really dangerous.

    I also agree that Walton is the odd man out, he just hasn’t been giving us anything lately.

    Regarding Kobe’s playing time, one of our problems this year has been giving up leads in the 4th quarter. That requires Phil to keep Kobe out there longer. Once we learn how to close teams out, that’ll enable Kobe to sit out more 4th quarters while the bench mops up.

  65. At least the Spurs have earned their respect. There’s something about Raja, Amare, and Dantoni that tells me they are huge backstabbing rats.

  66. #64……….I agree.

    My distaste for the C’s are at such a high that it permeates to the other Boston sports teams (i.e. Bo Sox, Pats, Boston College, etc.). Although, I do have to admit I don’t dislike the current C’s as much as I did in the 80′s. Those battles were truly epic and hopefully we can see that again. It makes me truly appreciate how tough it was to win in the 80s.

    Not to take anything away from Jordan and his 6 titles, but Magic took his team to the Finals 9 times! He could have easily won 6 or 7 if it wasn’t for injuries…….makes you truly appreciate his greatness (the real “MJ”).

    Anyway, my dream run to the championship this year (or any year) would be to beat the Spurs in the West Semis and Suns in the West Finals……..followed by a sweep of Boston in the NBA Finals.

  67. Sorry……I meant #63.

  68. hmmm.. i think starting two 7-footers together on defense is more of an issue than moving lamar to the 2nd unit.
    we really have to see if pau or andrew can do a better or equal job on the elite PFs in the western conference than lamar can. not to mention, if we somehow face the warriors in the playoffs, starting pau and andrew together will be a very sharp double-edged sword for us.
    i like how lamar has stepped up his game recently and i think let’s just wait until andrew comes back and put fish, kb, lo, pau, ab out there and see what we can do. and meanwhile enjoy the current group achieving new heights each game.

  69. Miami looked really energized today. What a boost they received with marion. Anyone know why he chose #7? I’m curious. When he took a break in the 2nd half is when the Lakers made their run. He made their team a lot more intimidating.

    Lakers looked shaky at times but still played solid. Pau’s shot was off tonight but still managed to find ways to contribute. Good for him. I thought Luke looked alright. Had some good plays. And LOL at him picking himself plus five legends (Bird, Magic, McHale, and Father Walton) (p.s. what’s up with the 4/5 white guys?). I’m glad we didn’t blow this game.

    Big ups to Lakers.com and that video. I’ve been laughing all day with my girlfriend about the Coby Karl heckling.

  70. May 7 is his birthday and mine and this why he chose #7.

  71. #68 – I heard it was because he couldn’t have his old number with the Suns (31) because it is taken on the Heat (by Ricky Davis) so he went with his birthday, which is May 7, 1978… btw; my 2 cents on the LO issue: He gets close to a triple double almost every game; I trust PJ to use him to our best advantage…

  72. TODAYS GAME:
    this was a good game to win, you could tell the heat really wanted this one, they were energized and up for it. we need the momentum to beat the ‘cats whom we’ve had problems with before, and then finish off the trip with a w in minny, who has looked better as of late.

    SUNS SIDENOTE:
    since the trade, they’ve lost to the hornets at home. the hornets are a good, up and coming team, but dont forget the beatdown we put on them in NOLA before bynum went down. the suns have lost all three games against the hornets so far.

    then they barely squeeze out a win against the 13-37 supersonics at home (bonehead play by wally).

    again tonight they barely squeeze out a win against the sinking wizards at home again, who of course are without arenas, but also without caron and antonio daniels. we also handled the wiz recently in washington with caron playing.

    SHAQ:
    granted, these three games are without shaq, but my point is i think the suns greatly underestimated the contributions of marion. marion is a better shooter, rebounder, defender, slasher & finisher, pound for pound, than shaq. i watched a few heat games pre-trade and shaq has definitely lost atleast a step, lost much of what little touch he had, is still a horrible free throw shooter, is slow on rotations and was really foul prone; it seems as though he couldn’t control his body weight and would tumble into people, i kind of felt bad for him.

    WADE:
    one of the main reasons why i watched a few heat games was basically because i wanted to see them lose. wade seems like a awesome dude personally, and i think he’s hilarious in the fav five commercials, but i cant stand to hear people talk about him and kobe in the same breath. only lebron is close to kobe’s level. i think a couple years ago, when shaq said “who needs kobe when you have flash” is what really triggered it for me. if wade were on par with kobe, the heat would have won more than 9 games (out of 49!). kobe carried the lakers these past two years. 81 points in a game? how many 50+ games in a row did he go for? taking the suns to 7 games with smush as your starting point and kwame as your starting center!!? pleaaaaaaase

  73. The Dude abides…

    I am one of those rooting for the Suns to win that series for sheer love of the game. In spite of the inherrent “hatred” for them, I still love the game more as a whole to make my silly bias and hatred get in the way. Somehow, something tells me I “hate” the Spurs more. Talk about bias…

    However, I think the league acted properly on that issue. Amare and Boris, knowing how essential they are in Phoenix’s bid, should have been more responsible on their actions rather than expect the league bail them out just because they were “important” for the Suns to win it. For what its worth, I think the league would have benefited more IF the Suns won last year instead of the Spurs. It would have tossed up a very good rivalry for the league to showcase on Christmas Day and on other Holidays of Importance.

    While it may have sucked that the Suns were actually a hip check away from the title, it was Horry that was supposed to be punished more severely for doing such a Rodman-like conduct on taking down the Suns’ best player.

  74. Thanks for commenting Warren, I agree that Stoudemire and Diaw should have been suspended. My disagreement with the decision was over the lack of suspension of Duncan and Bowen, who both left the bench and came ten feet out onto the floor when one of the Suns and one of the Spurs got tangled up on a play in the second quarter. The difference in the two incidents was that a minor altercation developed involving the players on the floor after Stoudemire and Diaw left the bench after the Horry hip-check, but no altercation developed among the players on the floor after Duncan and Bowen left the bench in the second quarter.

    I’ve known about Stern’s close personal friendship with the Spurs owners for awhile. It just wasn’t well publicized until the past several months, when the former Spurs minority owner, who is the current owner of the Sonics, publicly acknowledged that he wants to move the franchise to his hometown of Oklahoma City and Stern backed him. Stern even gave the introductory speech for the guy the day he got inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

    Why has Bruce Bowen never been suspended for any of his many dirty plays over the years? Bowen’s gone after the legs or feet of Vince Carter, Jamal Crawford, Kobe, Ray Allen, and Amare Stoudemire, and he’s deliberately kneed Steve Nash in the crotch. And he’s never been suspended for even one game.

    If any Laker or Sun player had gotten kicked out of a game for laughing at a call while sitting on the bench, do you think Stern would have suspended the referee for the rest of the season like he suspended Joey Crawford after Crawford ejected Duncan? It’s no coincidence, in my opinion. If this young Laker team plays San Antonio in the playoffs, our guys will have to keep their cool and not retaliate when the Spurs undercut them after they’ve jumped in the air, or kick them as they’re jumping, or any of their other assorted dirty tactics. If the Lakers are healthy and keep their cool in a Spurs series, then it’s Lakers in six.

  75. CHAMPIONSHIP CHARACTER

    This year, Kobe announced to his Laker teammates in Hawaii that he was there to win a championship. To Kobe, that’s all there is. The Laker organization has long claimed that they were championship caliber because they would take the risks at the right time to become a champion again.

    When things went well this year, a few wild dreamers thought the Lakers might get to the Western Conference Finals.

    I kept waiting for that final piece.

    This may sound crazy, but I believe that Memphis traded Gasol to the Lakers in part BECAUSE PAU DESERVED IT–and the Lakers were looking for that trade BECAUSE KOBE DESERVED IT. That’s the pixie dust that comes with being a true champion. Does anyone doubt that Gasol and Kobe are both champions?

    We can look deeper into the team: Derek Fisher is as proven a champion as anyone in the NBA–with Jordan Farmar not far behind. Luke Walton won an NCAA championship and already has gone all the way to a championship series with the Lakers. Trevor Arisa might also have caught a little pixie dust at UCLA. Ronny has played for the Zogs in the NCAA and international teams in a championship atmosphere.

    Everyone else is either looking for magic or redemption–none more than Lamar Odom.

    If Lamar can believe that he is a champion too, the whole team will embrace that spirit–none bigger than Andrew Bynum. If our Lakers are real, they will soon walk with that swagger we haven’t seen in Lakerland for a long time.

  76. Here is a snippet from Hoopsworld. We have discussed this to death, but it does seem to be a part of his personality…

    Arison Says Shaq’s Agent Requested Buyout

    Posted: 2/11/2008 4:39:00 AM
    Source: Palm Beach Post

    Shaquille O’Neal made the first move that forced the Miami Heat to start exploring ways to trade the franchise center, Heat owner Micky Arison said Sunday.

    Arison said he received a call from O’Neal’s agent, Perry Rogers, about six weeks ago, requesting the team buy out O’Neal’s contract, which has 21/2 years and approximately $50 million remaining. This followed a call from Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who inquired about the same possibility, hoping to then sign O’Neal.

    Cuban must have figured the Heat would have little success trying to trade ‘Neal.

    “Shaq, through his agent, put himself in play,” Arison said Sunday before the Heat’s 104-94 loss to the Lakers. “That’s when we decided we couldn’t just deal with Cuban. We had to find another party as well.”

    For those who always want to defend Shaq, he does have a really selfish streak and doesn’t seem to care who or how he leaves people in his wake.

  77. Kurt, we need our Bobcats preview! :) Good work by the way Kurt, your site makes Lakers games so much more fun.

  78. 78. Very soon. The Man is holding me down at the day job!

  79. 64: I agree the Spurs still look to be the #1 threat in the West, I would put them above us only because we still have many question marks on defense, and stamina, last year our young guys got tired in the 2nd half of the year and the bench is kind of showing fatigue they aren’t blowing teams out and allowing Kobe and Lamar a lot of rest like the 1st half. Also the Celtics have to be considered a real threat as well, There game against the Spurs was great, w/o Garnett, they have that WANT to win and chase and fight for every rebound and loose ball, and beat the Spurs who had a pretty good game from their players, minus Parker.

    And all this talk about Bynum is kind of premature i think, I love his play this season but he is really young and you never really know how he will react to this injury, he could come back really timid and just not have the same intensity untill next year. I do believe he has matured a lot, but I originally thought he was kind of like Kwame when first drafted (has potential but no desire) but it looks like he has that now, but this injury might just knock him down a bit.

    73: the suns are 2-1 without Marion, Banks, and Shaq and it doesn’t really matter that they barely those 2, if anything this proves that they don’t really need Marion to win, they lost to NO with Marion like they did without him so if anything this adds some substance to the fact that Shaq might just be the piece that they are looking for, making them more dangerous, it does give them a new dimension IF he plays of course.