Preview and Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

Kurt —  February 24, 2008

Records: Lakers 38-17 (1 seed); Sonics 15-39 (13 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.6 (2nd); Sonics 101.7 (30th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.5 (7th); Sonics 108.7 (18th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Sonics: Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Johan Petro

What he said – the Lakers: Busy morning for me, so this will be short and sweet. My thoughts on some current Lakers trends can be found at Kevin Pelton’s very good Sonics Beat blog (should be up this afternoon).

And, why should I write more about last night when Drrayeye did such a good job in the comments:

In the beginning of this game, Lamar took the initiative, playing like the all star he can be, sending a friendly message to his old pal, Donald Sterling. Lamar had ZERO Oh! No! Dumb three point attempts, but made several long two’s in rhythm at the right time–with great confidence. Lamar played better than his 20/10 indicates. His confidence and joy were contagious.

Pau showed that he could score just about any time he wanted, scored whenever it was needed, and kept feeding his teammates with great passes. I don’t think Kaman could have stopped him. I think that Pau had the most fun when he successfully led a fast break.

Even though Derek Fisher both bricked his 3 pointers and fouled himself to the bench in the first half, his teammates kept feeding him, and he hit a whole series of 3’s in the third quarter.

The Machine was The Machine from the three point line, but I will remember the drive and reverse layup that he must have learned from Kobe.

Kobe couldn’t hit from outside if his life depended on it, and Dunlevy wasn’t about to get him started, so Kobe decoyed, played great defense, assisted, tied for fourth in points on mostly free throws, and watched his teammates score.

The Sonics coming in: I’m still swamped, so more Drrayeye:

Even though the Lakers won last time they played in Seattle, it was in overtime–and they were saved from a loss in regulation by Kwame Brown.

Having lost Wally Z to Cleveland and Kurt Thomas to San Antonio, you’d think that the Sonics would be in chaos. Wrong. They’ve won two out of the last three, and could have won all three. They’ve relied on the energy of their young players, who have nothing to lose.

The Lakers are playing the second game of a back to back. Their string of wins is about as long as it ever gets. Seattle would love to help them end it.

Keys to the game: The Sonics are young, athletic and want to run (sixth fastest pace in the NBA). The Lakers have been better about slowing it down lately, and I expect that will be the case tonight (second game of a back-to-back and all). If they can do that and run the half-court offense, this should be another win. Make it a track meet, and you play into the hands of the Sonics.

My Prediction: No Country for Old Men wins all the biggies.

Kurt

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87 responses to Preview and Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

  1. Another game we should win. What I’d like to see:

    1. A few minutes with Ronny at the 5 and Pau at the 4. Start to get Pau acclimated at playing the high post in a post-Bynum front court.

    2. A few minutes playing the 1 -2-2 zone they showed against the Bobcats (and never to be seen since). This is the defense that might be needed once Bynum and Gasol play together to minimize exposing Gasol to the 4′s who can shoot from the outside. Apotential 1-2-2 zone with Ariza at the 1 and Kobe/Lamar mid zone and Pau/Bynum low zone would be scary indeed.

    It would be nice to See Ronny bounce back from a series of low energy outings. He seems to be wearing down. He, as much as anybody will benefit from Bynums’ return. As I would expect Bynum to get his initial action as Pau’s back-up.

  2. I was concerned about last night, but couldn’t find the word, until Stu used it to describe a Kobe 3pt attempt that was short off the front of the rim…lacked …brain fart…I lost the word, maybe it will come back.
    but on to my point, the team seemed lethargic, like they weren’t motivated against the Clips, and that had me concerned even though they mostly played ahead during the first half. in the second half, it didn’t seem like they found their motivation, but it came down to just having better team play, spacing, passing, and the energy of the bench was what made the difference.
    the good news is that the team has a certain level of skills that will help them even when their heads can’t seem to get them to the level of the competition.
    I hope this isn’t a trend, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

  3. ok, got it, (these things will happen to you too after you pass 50)
    what stu said was that the shot kobe took “lacked conviction”, and that was what I thought best described the total effort last night.
    it’s a good thing we still got the W.

  4. Shaq impacts the Suns half-court offense in such a NEGATIVE manner. He clogs the lanes that Nash once ran through freely. Also, his presence with Amare takes another shooter off the court. Funny to see the Suns struggle to score.

  5. I am not saying this for hyperbole. Looking at the way the Suns playing and their schedule, I am not confident that they are guaranteed a playoff spot.

  6. Kurt,

    You didn’t mention this in your Q/A session on the Sonic Blog, but I think another aspect of the defense is losing Ariza. Not nearly to the same degree as Bynum, but he is clearly a better defender than both Vlade and Luke. We lost them at approximately the same time.

  7. Let me start by saying that I don’t like those Laker fans who openly root against Shaq, simply because he left or whatever. I like the guy, I don’t necessarily want him to fail, and I respect Steve Kerr for taking a chance on him. That being said, I am RELISHING this beat down that the Pistons are throwing down on the Suns (down by 36 right now), only because I watched the pre-game show where Wilbon and Walton referred to the Suns with Shaq (1-1 as we all know) as a “juggernaut” and “unstoppable”. I hate ESPN so much sometimes.

  8. Even my wife, who isn’t a bball fan, but does exercise throughout each 3rd qtr, is loving the PHX beatdown. With the toughest schedule in the NBA from here on out, I also feel the Suns could either miss the playoffs (isn’t that a shame) or get a low seed and play a tougher team on their home court. If that happens, then I think Riley will be laughing up his sleeve – oh, you say he is doing that already. Here I thought that contract Shaq signed consigned Miami to the dustbin until Shaq fell off the books.

  9. I hate the Suns… but there is no way they miss the playoffs (unless Nash tears an ACL in the next couple weeks).

  10. ok, so Phx loses today, and we’re playing the Sonics tonight, hopefully this is enough motivation, (sole possession of first in the west) that the team really brings it tonight. the rest of the week looks ok, no back to backs, time to plan and prepare for the sub 500 teams, time to focus and open up a few games from the rest of the pack.

  11. Funny fact that the Suns did the WORST trade possible just in a try to react to the Laker’s Trade of the Year. They really look awful with Shaq.. who ever thinked that would work out? Steve Kerr should be fired asap. I don’t think they’re even reaching 2nd round in playoffs this year.

  12. The Suns supposedly brought Shaq in for “defensive purposes” as much as for offense–which is insane if you think about it, because they gave up their best defender in the deal (Marion). It is true that they lacked a lane-clogger, but in today’s NBA having a guy who can guard 5 positions and specializes in stopping drives is arguably more valuable. And the lunacy of the trade really came through in the drubbing Detroit gave them today.

    No true Laker fan wants to see Shaq fail, but he has landed in a very sad situation: he has officially reached the role-player phase of his career, but suits up for a team who has invested everything in the belief that he can play like the star he once was. I’ve watched all of Shaq’s games as a Sun and he has been effective at times, but he is nowhere near as valuable to that team as Marion was. This can only end badly. Shaq will likely become the scapegoat for a Suns team that was on a downward trajectory anyway (look at their pre-Shaq record against the western conference for proof). Phoenix ran up a decent record in the first half of the season against a schedule of sub-.500 Eastern Conference teams and would have slid down the standings by April even without the Shaq trade debacle.

    Anyway, Phoenix will still probably make the playoffs, but as a 6-8 seed… which means we could see them in the 1st round once again… only with a homecourt advantage for once!

  13. Why is everyone already calling the Shaq trade a bad one? The Suns did not get Shaq to win regular season games. They are preparing for the postseason, and this trade can only be judged when the postseason arrives. If Shaq isn’t working out then they’ll probably play him limited minutes (I think he’s been playing too much), because they don’t need Shaq to win. They were winning games without Shaq or Marion when the trade occurred, so they WILL make the playoffs. They’ll probably be 5th or 6th, but they’ll be there, I think.

    This trade could very well be a bust, but it’s too soon to call it that, I think.

  14. Yeah, that Pistons-Suns blowout was just as bad as the Lakers’ earlier this season. Jeff Van Gundy disagrees with Kurt’s predictions. He’d prefer McLovin over No Country for Old Men. I hope the Lakers can keep up their intensity after a lethargic first half last night. The Machine has been on a roll lately. Go Lakers!

  15. I have to say, I still can’t believe Pau is a Laker. You couldn’t come up with a better fit with the system or the personnel if you set out to design a player from scratch.

    Also, after the last couple of decades of seemingly getting pick and rolled to death by various opponents, it’s nice to see the Lakers abusing other teams with that play. The pick and roll has the same effect as an effective ground game in football – it’s as basic as the game gets, and it’s very demoralizing to the opposition when it’s executed well and often.

  16. 11 – even my dog knows it’s a bad trade

  17. (11) It might still be the regular season and only three games, but those three games were the Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons… the three teams whom the Suns would have to go through if they want a championship. Three playoff type games right there.

  18. I don’t know that the PHX trade was a bad one for PHX. I just feel that PHX has the toughest road TO the playoffs and they also have to adjust to an entirely different game with Shaq in there. If they lose many games they could finish 6-8, or even out of the playoffs. Their weak point against good teams is their defense and that has gotten worse so far. This is something Steve Nash cannot help. Pick-n-roll, pick-n-roll, pick-n-roll. Can anyone say pick-n-roll baby?

  19. I had to post this. Its pretty funny a song about the resemblence between Pau and Phil.

    Phil is your Father:
    http://www.ryanparkersongs.com/

    If the Lakers put forth the effort tonight, they should win.

    And Johnny Depp should win best actor tonight for Sweeny Todd. Awesome movie (great play too). Maybe my favorite Tim Burton movie, and I am a big Burton fan.

  20. 16 – i lmao with that song.. great stuff

  21. Although it was pretty funny to see the Pistons blow out the Suns so bad, the best part of that game was a few minutes into the fourth quarter when Van Gundy started arguing why McLovin from Superbad should be nominated for an Oscar.

  22. I secretly rooted for Detroit today and bet some 2000php on that game in which Detroit was a +2. I have also put money on the Lakers to beat Seattle by at least 10 points.

    Just as mentioned in the previous thread, New Orleans was simply a loss away from being the #5 seed from sitting on top of the conference. That’s how tough things are over here. With the Phoenix loss, they also slipped from tied for #1 (2nd actually) down to 5th themselves today.

    Aside from rooting for the Lakers to keep winning (which they should for the next 5 games), here are also games to root for:

    Feb 27th – Phoenix @ New Orleans (root for NOH)
    Feb 28th – Dallas @ San Antonio (root for DAL)
    Feb 29th – Utah @ New Orleans (root for UTA)
    Mar 7th – Utah @ Phoenix (root for UTA)

    San Antonio is supposed to cruise over teams now too. Its imperative that they lose to Dallas on that game so that we could keep the #1 seed.

  23. Well, “Seguaro” O’Neill’s cactus disguise was exposed by the Detroit bad boys. Phoenix was humiliated.

    Now it’s up to the Lakers to do their part and take sole possession of first place in the West. On paper, the best way for the Sonics to win would be to sneak out of town, move to Oklahoma, and claim the Lakers were a no show.

    I don’t think that will happen.

  24. i’m pretty sure our 2nd unit could beat the Oklahom…uh…Seattle Sonics by at least 10 points

  25. right on # 24… 6:05 left in 2nd.. kobe and pau hasn’t seen any action since the start of the 2nd.. 48-27 lakers ahead (of course)

  26. I like the Farmar/Pau pick and roll. We should keep exploring that.

  27. Kobe got ejected?

  28. what happened?

  29. I would have argued too. Kobe got manhandled on one end and Fish on the other.

  30. kobe, saw we were up 30, decided to get an early shower.

  31. Let Kobe have his break. No way should we lose this. That referee looks fresh, that happeend right in front of him, I don’t what he was looking at if not Kobe getting grabbed.

  32. looked it up from yahoosports.com.. seems like kobe was indeed ejected.. 2 technicals under his name..

  33. Wow! My 2 bets today won… the Lakers are worthy.

    What can we say about the next 3 games?

    vs Por
    vs Mia
    @ Por

    Drrayeye is getting more poetic by the day :)

  34. Best in the West. Excellent chance to win some more. Voted most likely to win the West by Celtic bloggers. Ranked best in NBA basketball by Hollinger.

    Can the Lakers handle success? Or will they fall apart and lose to Portland on Tuesday?

  35. Lamar Odom you are indeed back “welcome!” He always plays well after the trade deadline and in the second half of the season, this year it looks like it will be no different. His stat line for the past few games has been ridiculous. No other player at his position does what he does.

    Luke Walton is looking like pre-injured Walton and that can only bode well for the team. Truly a confidence player that knows and is suited for the triangle especially when he can consistently hit jumpers.

    Sasha Vujacic, I still can not give him the moniker “The Machine” not until he shoots well for one season or if we win the championship this year. Sasha is shooting well and has become a reliable bench player capable of getting 10 or going off and getting 20. Once again kudos to Kupchak for holding on to this kid.

    Lastly never ever count a motivated Shaq out of the playoffs! Not until he has phoned his travel agent for summer reservations. Kerr picked up Shaq who is aged and relegated to a role player, but the Suns had no choice they have to try to win the championship this year. Nash does not have much left and neither do the core Sun players. They play a fast paced game with limited bench help over a season of 100 games. That 6-7 man rotation is one reason why they have never gone far in the playoffs–no legs when the real season starts.

  36. Glad Kobe found a away to get a little rest in a fourth-quarter blowout for once.

  37. One of the best things about watching the Seattle game was seeing Luke Walton play his best game in a long time. 11, 7, and 6 is an awesome stat line, even for the nearly 40 minutes that he played.

    If I’m Phil Jackson, I might think about starting him for the next few games and letting Radmanovic come off the bench while he recovers completely. Getting Luke’s confidence up for a stretch run and into the playoffs would give a big boost to the second unit.

  38. 36: A lot of people have made statements like “The Suns had to make that trade” or “they had no choice”. I totally agree that their window was closing, but if they really needed to “win now” why would they trade a player in his prime for a player four years past it (aging themselves that much more)? John Wooden has a saying that fits perfectly here: “Never mistake activity for achievement”. Desperation may have mothered Kerr’s gamble, but that doesn’t make it a smart bet. The Suns were one terrible suspension and one bloody nose away from the Finals last year. This season, Shaq couldn’t even help the Heat out of the cellar. Kerr should have gone with what they had.

  39. logging in from Pakistan to check the score… wow, Kobe got some rest!

    Anyway, we’ve had three good trades this season:
    1. Ariza
    2. Gasol

    and..

    3. Odom!

    Seriously, this the same Odom?

  40. 40 – That’s the POW! effect my friend… and not only with LO ;)

  41. 39) The NBA landscape has changed dramatically since last year. Between the overall improved play in the West (especially the Lakers addition of Gasol with Bynum still to return), and stronger teams at the top in the East, the Suns (correctly) felt that they did not have a very good chance of winning the title as currently constructed. Steve Nash is getting older, and has a history of back problems. Getting Shaq allows them to play a more playoff styple of basketball. It was a risk, but if you’re not going to win the title, and your star only has a couple of years left, it’s an appropriate step. (Of course, had the kept Thomas, they might not have needed to do this.)

  42. Just my humble opinion, but I still think that both in the West and the entire NBA the team to beat is San Antonio. They are playing comprable ball to the Lakers, added a nice supporting piece in Thomas and are the defending champs. If they are healthy going into the playoffs, they are the favorites. After them though (and Detroit in the East) I think the Lakers are the best team, and If Andrew comes back into the fold nicely, we will compete for the title.

  43. Is that the only way for Kobe to get rest? Seriously, even with a comfortable lead he comes back to play the 4th all the time. I wonder why. PJ should rest him more.

  44. 44-

    Call me crazy, but I think it’s a ploy by Jackson- If you have Kobe out there STILL in the fourth, he’s working on getting that killer instinct refined. And that, in turn, is carrying over to the rest of the team- When Kobe went out last night, aside from a small push by the Sonics, they didn’t let up. call me crazy again, but I think it’s working.

    That, and he might be showing and repeating the fact that Kobe, with a busted pinkie, DOES NOT GET TIRED.
    He can rest after the championship, but he DOES NOT GET TIRED.

    I swear, the man’s not human, and the league is getting scared. This team is FRIGHTININGLY good.

  45. In case anyone is interested, here is a link to high quality video of the ejection. http://www.theuep.com/kobe-022408.html I see a couple arms grabbing inside, and the last one came down hard on his shoulder. The referee had a front row vantage.

    Lamar ain’t playing bad at all- not at all.

  46. 46-Kobe had been going at with him all night, that was just a culmination of frustration. I love PJ’s quote about the ref “he has a little bit of the red ass”, ha, gotta love PJ’s one-liners

  47. 43) kwame a,

    I agree; at this point San Antonio hasn’t shown a drop off from last season. The other contenders in the West are still basically unproven in the playoffs. (Dallas and Phoenix are significantly different than in previous years, so it remains to be seen how they will do.)

  48. When things in Lakerland are going so well I guess it’s time to focus hysteria elsewhere, against Shaq.

    I’m not sold on the deal either, but it is just one game. Not that it means as much as earlier in the season, but they did beat the Celtics on Friday, remember? It’s still very early.

    I was surpised hearing Alvin Gentry telling Amare during the game that basically, hey it’s ok you’re getting worked over by Rasheed. It may not be fundamental defensive practice, but if your guy has posted up and shot over you oh, about ten times in a row, how about you assume he’s going to do it again and JUMP, to at least try and bother him some?

    I felt Marion was sorely missed this game, definitely.

  49. 45-Jeff, you are crazy.

  50. 49- If Allen and Pierce don’t go something like 5-27 then Boston probably wins that game. Phoenix is gonna have to put another shooter on the floor, G. Hill or Shaq should come off the bench.

  51. I think Jeff Van Gundy’s comments during the Suns game yesterday were the best analyses I’ve seen of that trade yet. Over the last few years the Suns went from having nothing but potential 3 point shooters under Colangelo, to slowly whittling it down to Nash, Bell and Barbosa. The result being that Shaq’s presence has hampered the Suns’ HALF COURT offense a lot more than their full court offense. The lack of shooters leads to defenses collapsing on Shaq, which then limits the ability of cutters to get to the rim.

    I also think the offense has disproportionately turned its focus to Amare. While he’s a great player, if the offense runs through him instead of Nash, I think you’ll see more results like the Suns’ last two games where Amare has big numbers but the overall offensive efficiency of the team suffers (and I put the win over the Celtics on that team’s sudden problems and utter incompetence offensively that night, more than on the suns supposed defense). I don’t think the Suns will suffer against lesser teams, but they have issues. I really hope they don’t pick up Brent Barry….

    I bring this up not just for the Schadenfreude factor, but because the exact opposite effect has happened with the Lakers. As opposed to previosu years we suddenly have 3 or 4 guys shooting at 40+% from the arc. This has lead to great spacing and I think our whole team is cutting better than i’ve seen in years. Kobe, Pau, Odom (!), Farmar, Walton are all making great cuts lately. It’s fun to watch. I only wish Ariza was back, since he could have a field day with this.

  52. The Suns offense looked really anemic the last 2 games. Losing Marion is hurting them on two fronts. First, they lost the real key to their running game. He consistently beat other bigs down the court and was good for several fast break points every game. Second, his ability to play the 4 was a hidden source of their half court offense efficiency. As a small 4, he spaced the court by dragging other bigs to the 3 pt line and then could either spot up or cut past them for easy baskets at the rim. Now, Shaq has pulled a defender into the lane and they usually only have 1-2 spot up shooters spacing the court (Nash is a shooter, but he usually has the ball; Hill is a midrange shooter, as is Diaw; only Barbosa and Bell are spread beyond the line and they usually split time). And Shaq isn’t doing enough with his possessions to counteract the slowed pace and clogged spacing. This has resulted in no running game and a really stilted Amare-focused half court game. Amare is fabulous (and much, much better as a 4), but they aren’t going to continue as an elite offensive team if he’s taking 10 more shots than everyone and their shooters aren’t getting good looks. I expected the slowed running game, but did not realize what losing Marion would do to their half court game. That all said, I still fear them more than I did before the trade.

  53. 52- Great point about floor spacing. My question to fellow Laker fans: Can we space the floor as well we are right now with Odom at the 3. This is the biggest question in my mind as to how we integrate Bynum. Odom at the 4, Pau at the 5, Kobe and 2 shooters seems to really work well.

  54. to add to this you could see the effect of Shaq on the Suns’ offense and overall playing style as soon as he went to the bench. Phoenix made a few runs while he was out that they could not reproduce when he was on the floor. Really the only advantage I see now for them is that he clogs the lane against penetrating guards and forwards, but faced with a multi-dimensional offensive team like the Lakers or a great jump-shooting team like the Pistons really screws them up.

  55. 54. I think these few games with Walton at the 3 gives us a peek at what it will be like with Bynum-Gasol-Odom. Walton is about the same as a shooter as Odom and a poor man’s Lamar in terms of cutting, finishing, playmaking, etc. So far it is working so far. We usually force the ball inside more with Walton out there, and then let our 3 point attack fly when Sasha and Farmar come in.

    I love how Odom has figured out how/when to cut hard to the rim when Gasol has the ball. While Odom won’t be able to stretch the defense like Radmanovic, I think he can offset that by continuing to make these cuts and get easy points inside.

  56. the other Stephen February 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    anyone who doesn’t like bill walton has to come through me first.

  57. It is probably safe to say that Lamar is least effective when he is relied on to be the #1 or #2 scorer on a team. However, he is extremely effective when he is the #3 option. About a month ago, I thought that when Bynum gets back…….I advocated LO should be coming off the Bench to create a “Ginobli effect” since he will be playing against top reserve players from a given opponent. But, I’ve noticed that even when Kobe sits in the 2nd quarter to get a rest and Phil goes with the lineup of LO, Farmar, Turiaf, Sasha, etc….LO is effective, but can still disappear at times. I think LO is at his best when he plays with the “starters” (Kobe, Fish, Gasol) and is at the 4 spot. He does well when its just Kobe, Gasol and LO or Kobe, Bynum, and LO (although he is better with Gasol than Bynum).

    When Bynum returns…….I’m not sure how effective LO can be being the #4 option AND playing SF spot. It is widely assumed that LO’s natural position is the 3, but I think he is actually better at the 4. I guess only time and experimentation will tell (when Bynum gets back), but I’m a bit worried about how we are going to use him when Bynum gets back. Then again, looking at our problems from the beginning of the season to now…….I’d definitely consider that a “Happy Problem”.

  58. re 54: kwame a., I think the spacing will be fine. on the strong side, you have a three man game with kobe, bynum, and lamar, and on the weak side, gasol and fisher. they overplay the strong side? No worries, rotate the ball to the other side and put it into gasol in the post. lamar’s not a great outside shooter, but he doesn’t have to be, and his drive and make/pass to gasol/bynum will be more important. He just needs to work on that pass-off. Pau’s going to take more 12-15 footers, but no big deal there, he can make those.

  59. Just listened to Phil on KLAC 570 radio. He seems really happy with this team now. He did say he was really looking forward to getting Ariza back to give speed/defense to SF and leave Kobe at 2. Phil is usually much more cautious in his comments.

    My only concern is that we get over confident, but with Kobe and Fish this may not be a problem. Boy am I glad we have Fish with this current team.

  60. Lamar is doing a much better job playing without the basketball. Cutting to the basket when Gasol or Kobe goes to the basket, and he’s getting a lot of high percentage shots. It also helps that Gasol has the ability to play 12 to 15 feet from the basket and that allows the cutters more room to operate. Unlike when the Lakers had Kwame Brown.

  61. Kelly and Dave, great points. I can defitnley see the offense running smooth if Gasol finds his space at the hi-post and Odom keeps cutting with purpose.

  62. Re: 60. The enjoyment of the team by the team itself is so refreshing! When Kobe was on 570 last week, he sounded so candid and carefree, such a welcome contrast from his usual guarded and calculated self. Whether it was talking about the team or pizza night with his daughters, he seemed to be in a very good place, happy and hungry for more. While I agree Phil is usually more cautious with his comments about his team’s success, he is also a master in using those comments to elicit more from the players. The fact that he even lobs today’s comments out there shows (IMHO) that he thinks they can do something special THIS year.

    Kinda related, I read Flea’s blog about this current Laker team, he likes the palpable unity too, guys just having a good time playing great ball: http://my.nba.com/thread.jspa?threadID=400028275

    Go Lakers, we 5-on-8 good now!

  63. Craig W (60): Historically, Fish has been a very average shooter and a mediocre defender (putting too much effort into trying to draw charges), but he has really picked up his shooting this year, and even his defense seems improved. Apparently, he credits a new fitness routine. I don’t know, but I like the results.

    And don’t underestimate his effect on Kobe’s mental stability. Kobe wanted out, I think, because he didn’t enjoy playing basketball on the Lakers in particular. Competing for a title is certainly one way for Kobe to enjoy Lakers basketball, but having Fish back at his side is another. I think he’s helped Kobe to see his role on the team from the perspective of someone who’s outside Kobe’s world to a certain extent, but is still someone he respects.

    There’s a certain sense in which Kobe’s career thus far really fits into a prototypical legend. You’ve got Phase I, the prodigy, the boy genius, with insane hops and tactical awareness beyond his years; you’ve got Phase II, the further development of his skills, but also, maybe, a certain consumption with the power. And now, hopefully, you’ve got Phase III, the understanding (finally) of how everything fits together. Hell, I hope someone makes a comic book out of this when all’s said and done.

  64. 56. I was going to make the same point about Walton! He’s taken over Lamar’s team lead in cringe-inducing shots lately, but the offense still hummed along nicely these last two games (admittedly against weak defenses). We’ve all seen how great LO has done without the ball lately-he’s become the master of the dive when Kobe or Pau have it on the low block. And as much as we would all like to see LO unleash a post-up game against smaller players, he seems to prefer outquicking bigger defenders. As long as he keeps moving well w/out the ball, they shouldn’t suffer too much with Bynum back on offense. The current lineup may actually have a higher ceiling of offensive efficiency with Pau and LO at 5 and 4. Even when opponents have found ways to trouble us with Pau at the 5, we’ve just outscored them.
    I think kwame’s question about our spacing is spot on, it probably will suffer some. Frankly, it’s been nearly perfect lately, so it can’t get much better anyway. That said, I don’t see us being much less efficient on offense once Andrew’s back, but any loss on offense should be more than made up by gains in rebounding (currently a definite weakness against teams that are active on the glass) and defense.
    On D, subbing out Luke/Vlad for Andrew is an obvious huge plus. I don’t think LO will really have a problem at the 3, how many high powered 3′s are there? Please, don’t say Carmelo. Most are spread-the-floor shooters, a la Peja and Korver. There have been more than a couple criticisms here of LO being overanxious to help on D, but with both Pau and Andrew in the middle, there’s no reason why he couldn’t force himself to stay home on shooters. Pau won’t force his way onto the all-defensive team at the 4, but he matches up as well against the other quality 4′s in the west at least as well as LO. Sure, CP3 and the other super PGs out west give us problems, but Andrew being back is our best defense against that as well.
    I have to think overall that any possible let down in the offense caused by the return of Bynum will be more than made up for by his contributions in other areas.

  65. Just thought I’d throw it out there for those that are interested. I have put together a KOBE for MVP article at:

    http://www.laballtalk.com

    Thank you Kurt for your continuous insight game to game, I have found that you deserve much respect as the time it takes is incredible. Everyone here needs to give Kurt some props for taking the time to give us this material.

  66. freakin amazing, the spurs scored 5 pts in the first qtr and are going to win

  67. 65. What sucks about LO going back to the three and having to guard those spread the floor guys is that it’ll seriously cut into his rebounding numbers.

    It did already this season. I hope this time not as much.

    And oddly enough like you said, if a team sticks a smaller player on him for defense, more likely with the new lineup, his ppg will definitely decline.

    I’d bring Bynum back off the bench for awhile.

  68. Brian Tung,
    Your 3 act play was really good; I just hope it isn’t a 4 act Greek tragedy.

  69. I realize its too early to tell but Mitch does have these thoughts on his head:

    1. How much to re-up Ronny. MLE money might be too high, perhaps he will accept lesser but with more years… a la Walton. 6yrs 30m.

    2. We need to keep Sasha. This is not one statement I would even dare say in the pre-season but it is holding true now. How can Mitch reward this guy? Another Walton-type contract would already hurt so much.

    3. How do we keep Odom and Ariza in 2009? Odom might be agreeable to some 8m per year salary but with Drew’s extension kicking in at more or less 11-12m, what money can we spend to keep Trevor?

    Assuming we did keep all these guys, our payroll would be:

    2008/09
    Kobe – 21.3m
    Gasol – 15.1m
    Odom – 14.6m
    Radmanovic 6.0m
    Fisher 4.7m
    Walton 4.5m
    Ariza – 2.9m
    Bynum – 2.8m (5yr – 65m extension)
    Mihm – 2.5m
    Farmar – 1.1m
    —————-
    Turiaf – 4m
    Vujacic – 3m
    —————–

    2009/10:
    Kobe – 23.0m
    Gasol – 16.5m
    Radmanovic – 6.5m
    Fisher 5.0m
    Walton 4.9m
    Farmar – 1.9m
    ——————–
    Bynum – 11m
    Vujacic – 3.5m
    Turiaf – 4.5m
    ———————
    Odom – 8m ?
    Ariza – 3.5m ?

    The numbers simply don’t add up.

  70. maybe it’s crazy, but one option I haven’t seen discussed is bringing Gasol off the bench. don’t know if he’d go for that, but it’d cure the problem of playing Lamar at the 3 and allow Pau to sub in for either of the big men…a la Ginboli.

  71. That’s indeed crazy Nagaz. That’s one option I would definitely not consider. If it comes down to choosing who, Lamar can step aside (because he knows he is not the #2 option) or Drew can (he is coming off an injury) and he is still very young. I definitely would not consider having Pau off the bench. He’s too good to be a secret weapon. For 20 other teams, he could be the best player already.

  72. Warren,

    Just a thought to keep in mind about salaries.

    RIGHT NOW the Mavericks are at $105, 000 ,000 the Lakers are at $72, 600, 000. Boston and Phoenix are about the same as the Lakers. Miami is at $75,000,000, the Denver Nuggets are at $83,000,000, Cleveland is at $81,000,000 and the New York Knicks are at $95,000,000.

    If they sign Brent Barry, San Antonio will just be a few million below the Lakers this year.

    Considering how big our market is here in LA, and what other teams are paying, the Lakers have enough money to keep the team together.

    I think that they will be at about 80 or 81 next year, and 91 the year after. They could go higher.

    They’d still be $14 million under where Cuban is this year–not counting penalties.

  73. Looking ahead to the Laker’s schedule. There is a key four game road trip that could determine our seeding.

    Fri 14 @ New Orleans
    Sun 16 @ Houston
    Tue 18 @ Dallas
    Thu 20 @ Utah

    the second to last game is at home vs the Spurs.

  74. Sorry… the above dates are March, so no AB yet…

  75. Dr Ray, since you were kind enough to talk about it with me, I’d be interested to know if you and I are using the same sources for these info? I’m using that one of Hoopsyhype.

    To some extent, being assured of the playoffs and the 2nd round at least and with a very good chance to go all the way is reason enough to pay the tax.

    If I may though…

    75.3m with 10 players on board. I think Mitch will keep the number at 14 so I think Sasha and Ronny are retained and for minimum salary purposes, so could Coby Karl and DJ Mbenga. The unknown therefore are for how much Sasha and Ronny are retained, and whether Sun Yue’s number will be called from China (since we need a 3rd PG anyway and he is a big guard at 6’9).

    Here are my assumpions:

    Ronny Turiaf will be re-signed. I think its a priority considering he is a PF/C and a boatload of energy – something we need in our bench. He is basically the 1st big man to be called from the bench. In order to match the MLE (which is the max other teams would offer him), I think Mitch is giving him Luke Walton money. That’s 30m in 6 years with 4m as the starting salary. Fiscally, a 3-yr deal would be ideal because it would mean his contract will end on the same year Kobe’s and Pau’s does. However, in order to not risk losing one of our more important players, I say we give him Walton-money.

    75.3m + 4m = 79.3m

    As for Sasha, I think he will seek the same amount as Ronny but I think he will not command that. Something like Brian Cook money or something lesser would be nice but I think he has come onto his own and I think 3 more years would be fine.

    79.3m + 3.5m = 82.8m

    Of course, aside from securing our 2 restricted free agents, there’s the Bynum extension that I’m sure Mitch and Buss are mulling over as we speak. In all honesty and practicality, Drew should not get the max. But he needs to sign some real money to stay here in order that we may be secured of the future and so does he. Al Jefferson money would be about right. That’s 65m in 5yrs. But this extension does not alter our payroll in 08/09 since it kicks in at the start of the 09/10 season. I think both parties should agree to this to avoid the Luol Deng and Ben Gordon effect.

    Then there’s Mbenga, Carl and Mihm. I do want to see Mihm moved. If some team would be interested in him for say, a 2nd rounder, I think we should pull the trigger. As for Coby and DJ, we have no choice but to retain them UNLESS the 2 2nd rounders we have are extremely gifted. Knowing Phil, I seriously doubt it…

  76. 71-Nagaz, forget that! Let’s start Mihm!

  77. tung, i like your analogy, although i was thinking more in modern terms – star wars :)

    kobe just went through his anakin and darth vader phases, and is at a stage where he helps overthrow the emperor with (get this) one good hand ;) oh yeah, Kobe also had some respiratory problems earlier this season too, if memory serves.

    fitting that we also have a Luke in our team, not to mention a Obi-wan-Kenobe type phil, a Kobe Jr. (oops, Coby)…

  78. Oh no. The clips are buying out Cassel’s contract, and he will be a free agent in a few days.

    I hope to GOD the Celtics wont be able to sign him. Rhondo is a big question mark come playoff time but Sam thrives in playoff situations.

  79. I’d rather Cassell go to the east than go to Dallas, Denver or Phoenix.

  80. All the new people on this blog are really making the comments section become more and more random…

    Honestly it pisses me off that comments are less and less focused/thorough.

  81. Yao out for season with foot injury!

  82. 81. It’s been noticed. I’m not sure what the answer is, or if there is one. The increased readership of the site means more commenters, but I don’t want to become an arbiter of taste, deciding what comments make the cut and which don’t. Maybe I become more strict about the guidelines, but I don’t want to limit inclusion in any way. I like the free-flowing, wide ranging discussions you see someplace like Dodger Thoughts. I want that feeling here, but to keep things at a certain standard/level. So, suggestions are welcome.

  83. 82. Wow, ESPN just broke that news. That’s just got to leave a pit in the stomach of Rockets’ fans everywhere. I hadn’t heard anything about Yao playing through foot discomfort recently. I guess Denver fans are pretty happy right about now.

  84. Kurt I think you’re absolutely right – lol, the price of fame. I’ll let you know if I can come up with anything. Thanks for keeping on keepin’.

  85. Hi Warren (76),

    I used trade machine numbers for salary. One needs to keep in mind that the accelerating part of multiyear contracts can be backloaded (like Mullins did for Golden State), among other things, so exact salary amounts, year by year, will be hard to come by.

    I agree with your analysis, except. . . . . .

    I think that the Lakers will be able to sign Turiaff for less than you project. I think that Mihm will remain a question mark. He’ll either play well in the playoffs or retire. I think that the Lakers may be able to attract vets for a very low salary to fill slots.

    Barring playoff catastrophe, bottom line (as I said before)–I think that the Laker team will be kept intact for next year for about $10 million more. The year after that is too far away to think about.

  86. I feel duly chastised for my admittedly (in retrospect) inane speculation. I’ve just always chafed against the seeming necessity of starting your best five players even if they don’t complement each other well. I am certainly giddy with Pau’s production so far. And I do salivate at the thought of a startine line of Bynum, Pau, and Odom. I’ve just been incredibly underwhelmed by Odom’s performance at the 3. Maybe it’s simply an adustment he needs to make. And maybe, as stated above, Odom works that much better with Pau on the floor because of their skill sets that it doesn’t matter what positions they’re playing.

    The truth is, I don’t want to come down from the cloud we’re sniffing at here. Obviously, as a true fan, you’d rather have the team be better in the long run and have some bumpy learning phases. As a fan of the moment’s glory, however, it’s invigorating to see your team reel off a nice string of wins. Any adjustment phases simply feel like irritations, even if you know better.