Preview and Chat: The Charlotte Bobcats

Kurt —  February 11, 2008

Records: Lakers 33-17 (5 seed); Bobcats 18-33 (13 seed, 3 games out of the 8 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.9 (4th); Bobcats 104.8 (22nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.7 (9th); Bobcats 110.5 (26th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Jered Dudley, Emeka Okafor, Nazr Mohammed (but they change this five often depending on matchups)

Mbenga sticking around: The Lakers have signed Dj Mbenga for the rest of the season. (Hat tip to Gatinho, who got it in just a couple minutes before Michael). I said just a couple days ago the Lakers should go this way — not sure what if anything we’ll get out of Mihm the rest of the season — so this makes me happy. Now, maybe we should debate starting DJ and bringing Pau off the bench…..

Lakers Notes: The Lakers are now 5-2 through seven games of the “Grammys Road Trip.” (Doesn’t this road swing need a name, like the “rodeo trip” the Spurs take or the “circus trip” of the Bulls?) And the Lakers offense since Pau came to time has been consistently amazing (even with him scoring just 12 yesterday he opened up all sorts of lanes). The offense is still covering up for a defense that continues to concern me (even though I know Bynum and Ariza will help that a lot when they get back next month). Yesterday the suddenly-improved Heat shot 50% (eFG%) for the game.

As has been the case after the last few games, lots of comments about Lamar Odom and how he fits in as the third or fourth option. To my eye, he seems so much more relaxed in that role and that makes him very valuable to a contending Lakers team. This season and next season.

That leads to a thought about Odom’s taking threes — I think there are two kinds for him. When he has to either create his own three or takes a fast catch-and-shoot three, that is where his misses pile up. But about once a game or so, he is trailing a break (or some other play), where he gets left wide-open at the three. When he has a full second to set his feet, look at the basket and take an uncontested shot, he hits a fair amount. (This is where I wish I had access to something like Synergy, where I could watch a bunch of his threes this season and confirm my thinking.) I’m fine with the second kind of three, and with Gasol and Kobe (and eventually Bynum) drawing doubles down deep, he may get more of these looks.

Suggested Reading: If you didn’t read the story in the LA Times by Chuck Cullpepper about Pau Gasol growing up, it’s well worth the time. Apparently, growing up the son of a doctor in a little town outside Barcelona doesn’t suck.

Also, if you didn’t see the Hoopsworld story Chris H. linked to on DJ Mbenga, check that out as well. His life and the challenges in his home country make great reading.

The Bobcats Coming In: They have lost six in a row but they are nearly a .500 team at home (14-15). They are also on the second game of a back-to-back, having been thumped by Detroit yesterday on the road.

The Lakers catch a break as the brightest young star on the Bobcats — Gerald Wallace — is out with a strained right foot.

But there are still athletes a plenty on this roster. The overpaid but still dang good Jason Richardson will carry most of the scoring load — and he is shooting 42.3% from three this season, so you have to challenge him everywhere. They run him off more picks than UCLA ran Afflalo off of last season, the Lakers need to talk on defense.

Emeka Okafor is shooting 53% for the season and the Lakers have to stay with him. Raymond Felton will push the pace and so will Boykins off the bench. Matt Carroll can light it up for a night and did against the Lakers last season. Jeff McInnis plays smart.

And despite the record you can say this about the Bobcats — they play hard. This is not a team that coasts, they get after it with defenders jumping the passing lanes and effort from key guys.

I watched the Grammy’s last night: Man I wish I could get that 90 minutes back. (Even TiVoed and the worst parts fast-forwarded through, it still sucks.) I liked Amy Winehouse, as I usually do. Enjoyed the Cirque “Love” thing, but I’ve seen that show and it’s the best Cirque around. Loved that a jazz guy in Herbie Hancock won best album. But as a whole that show is the worst thing in Staples. And I’m including those boiled hot dogs in that statement.

Keys To The Game: This game worries me, just as the Atlanta game did. In a best of seven the Lakers might not drop one to the Bobcats, but in one game, on the road, in the second game of a back-to-back, combined with how the Lakers have played defense of late and some real scorers for the Bobcats, and there is cause for concern.

It would help the Lakers to do what Detroit did yesterday — jump out to a big early lead and demoralize the Bobcats. This is a team that had 8 first quarter turnovers and shot 4 of 18 to start the game last night.

Ball movement within the half court will mean great looks for the Lakers tonight — right now the Bobcats defensive rotations are slow, particularly on people at the three point line and jump shooters. (In the last five games, teams are shooting nearly 50% from three against the Bobcats because of this.) This could be a big night for Fisher, Radman and Sasha.

Where you can watch: Game time is 4 pm (Pacific) but again the Los Angeles KCAL broadcast doesn’t start until 5:30. Again. Just a couple more games of that on this road trip with this annoying delay.