Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  February 26, 2008

Records: Lakers 39-17 (1 seed); Blazers 29-27 (10 seed, 4.5 games out of the playoffs)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.1 (2nd); Blazers 108.2 (14th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (8th); Blazers 109 (20th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Blazers: Martel Webster (or Jarret Jack), Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla

Lakers Notes: Tonight’s expected starting five for the Lakers (with Walton in for Radman) has an offensive rating as a group of 138.46 and a defensive rating of 99.03 (thanks to Basketballvalue.com). That, people, is crazy good.

The Lakers offense is a lot of fun to watch right now (unless you are Nate McMillan tonight) and a key reason is something often overlooked when focusing on shooting and scoring — the Lakers pass the ball well. That didn’t escape Kevin from Clipperblog after the most recent match up:

Now that the Lakers have five starters who are not just good, but top-shelf passers, they’re the best team in the Western Conference – and that’s with Bryant’s bum finger. With all the hemming and hawing I’ve heard over the past five seasons on sports radio in this town about Mitch Kupchak, the guy has done exactly what you want your General Manager to do: Recognize what kind of players your system values most, then go out and acquire them. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, even Andrew Bynum relative to his age – all great passers and, by extension, perfect fits for Morice Winter’s system.

Part of what good passing can do is encourage guys to move without the ball. It has been pointed out in the comments several times, but when was the last time any of us saw Lamar Odom move like this without the ball? Not as a Laker. Not as I remember as a Heat player. With the Clippers? In Rhode Island? Doesn’t matter to me, he gets it now and is another reason the Lakers are a very entertaining basketball team right now.

Best Player In NBA History? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The Blazers Coming In: Back in December we were all marveling at a young Blazers team that was stringing together wins and did no wrong on the court. Now, they have lost five in a row, eight of their last 10. They are 4.5 games out of the eighth playoffs spot (which is a lot to make up the way the West is going). What happened? We asked Dave of the great Blazer’s Edge to explain:

It’s pretty common knowledge that Portland fields the third-youngest team in league history. They’ve already eclipsed the season win totals of either of those other two teams and seem likely to win more than both combined before the season is over. This comes after losing the player that every off-season move was designed to build around. It’s a remarkable season, one that clearly shows the talent present on this roster. None of that changes the fact that this is still a young team. Inconsistency is the only constant.

One of the main consequences of our youth–besides rolling the dice every time we take the court–is fatigue: mental, emotional, and just plain physical. None of our regular rotation players have played this many minutes with this much responsibility. Every player hits the wall at some point in the season. In our case the wall knows judo. We are losing loose balls we used to vacuum up. We’re drawing fewer fouls. We’re hitting fewer of our foul shots. The jumpers are falling short again and again. The subtleties of the game–rotation, communication, trust–are getting lost in the cracks.

With Oden out we’ve been playing with smoke and mirrors much of the season. We’re thin and small down low on both ends. It’s hard to win in the long run with no interior post game. The defenses we’ve employed have been of the extraordinary variety…tons of zone, tons of switches, tons of disguises. The surprise factor makes that work the first time you run through the league with it. The Wizard is out from behind the curtain now though. Worst of all our rebounding has been a slow, steady drain all year. We need five guys rebounding to even stay close. Teams have figured out we’re going to stay back to grab the board instead of running out, which frees them to pursue offensive boards to their heart’s content.

I would be remiss in not giving credit to the opposition as well. This is the playoff-run season. The league changes after the year turns. We’re playing a host of Western Conference opponents in a vicious battle for seeding. The focus is tighter, the energy is higher, the determination is deeper. The Blazers don’t know how to match that yet even for 48 minutes, let alone night-to-night and week-to-week.

I think most reasonable Blazer observers saw this kind of thing coming. However those same observers would be quick to point out that this team isn’t built for 2007-08, but 2010 and beyond. The same talent that gave us an improbable glimpse of the future in December will be in Portland for a long time to come. Bolstered by a monster center and a couple of acquisitions coming down the pipe, this team should be truly scary just about the time the current Western contenders are winding down their runs.

Other NBA news Apparently Yao Ming has a stress fracture in his foot and is out for the season. That’s a huge blow for a Rockets team that nobody wanted to face in the first round. But I think, with how tight the West is, we knew some team’s playoff chances would fall due to injury. Too bad it had to be Yao. My second thought — will he be healthy in time to play for China in the Olympics?

Where’s Waldo Sam? Sam Cassell has been bought out by the Clippers. Does he land in Boston? How much better would that make the Celtics come playoff time? Better than the new look Cavs? No answers here, just lots of questions right now.

Keys To The Game: It looks like Brandon Roy will sit out tonight after twisting his ankle Sunday. Which is too bad as a fan, I really wanted to see him play in this type of game, but a good break for the Lakers. In the 10 games Roy has averaged 19 points a game to lead the Blazers, although he was shooting just 43.8% (eFG%).

Really, none of the Blazers are shooting all that well, as a team they are shooting 46.5% (eFG%) in the last 10 games (compare that to the Lakers who are 53.7% as a team). The second leading scorer in the last 10 for the Blazers is Aldridge (16 points per, plus 7.5 boards) and he is shooting 45.1%. One guy to watch for is Travis Outlaw, who has one of the best PERs on the team and is shooting 47.1% from the season, they run a lot of isolation for him.

As Dave from Blazer’s Edge mentioned, the Blazers currently are not a very good rebounding team — opponents grab 30.1% of their misses (only two teams are worse). The Lakers, with their length and depth, should be able to get boards and offensive putbacks tonight.

Also, the Blazers operate at the slowest pace in the NBA — 8 fewer possessions per game than the Lakers season average, and still 5 slower than the recent Lakers. This is a game where LA should push the pace, control the tempo and get some easy buckets in transition. The Lakers will see some zone defense tonight, they need to attack it — get the ball into the soft middle of it and have Sasha et al. bomb over the top.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30, with a Fox Sports broadcast in LA and on NBA TV nationwide.

Kurt

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106 responses to Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

  1. Yao’s probably getting surgery now so that he can participate in the olympics…rather sacrifice the season than face the scorn of his own country men.

    Lakers should cruise tonight…go lakers!

  2. 1. That’s kind of what I thought, but haven’t seen anything on the recovery time/plans.

    And don’t sleep on these Blazers, they have a lot of athletes. If we let them hang around….

  3. Roy not playing tonite ensures Portland gives a ridiculosly hard-nosed effort. Also we tend to not play great at the Thorn Garden. All of this makes me think trap game, but I hope our unconsious offensive efficency leads us to another win.

  4. Pau Pau Pau Pau Pau Pau Pau

  5. 3 – Hard to believe, but tonight’s game is actually a home game. Remember those?

  6. Now that I’ve seen Pau for a full 10 games, I thought I’d weigh in on my general impressions. I’m sure a lot of this has been said better elsewhere.

    1. The best possible triangle big man. I honestly cannot think of another big whose skills better translate to the triangle, even if I can think of a few players I’d rather have for broader reasons (Garnett, Duncan, etc.). For the triangle to work at peak efficiency, the big must be able to do a number of different things at a high level — score on the block, make the midrange shot, score in isolation, pick and roll and pick and pop, attack from either block and with either hand, run the high pick and roll or baseline pick and roll, pass to cutters when isolating, pass after rolling, pass to the corner shooters, catch difficult passes, etc., etc. There are bigs who can do most of these things well, and a few who do some things better than Pau, but I’m not sure anyone does all of them collectively as well as he does. When put in the fluid triangle system with players who know the offense and are highly skilled, Pau becomes ridiculously efficient.

    2. Since joining LA, his true shooting percentage is 67.4%. (eFG 63.2%) That would place him at number one on the season (slightly ahead of James Jones, Bynum, Amare, Nash, etc.). Is this sustainable? I think we’re bound to see some regression to the mean, but not as much as you might expect. With the triangle’s spacing, the team’s passing, and the attention Kobe demands, Pau is much more free to attack and find high % shots than ever before. Last year, his efg% was 54.1% (9% lower than with LA now), but 55% of his attempts were jump shots and 49% of his baskets were assisted. With LA, only 40% of his attempts are from the perimeter and a whopping 69% are assisted. This makes sense. He was the focal point of every defense in Memphis and surrounded by poor shooters (besides Miller) and undisciplined point guards. Now, he has Kobe commanding all the attention and shooters spacing the floor — so he is going to get a higher % of easy and assisted looks. Obviously, interior and assisted shots are much more likely to be high %, so it is reasonable to believe that he can sustain a blistering shooting rate, even if a step beyond his career norms.

    3. An awful rebounder. He’s probably the worst rebounder of the elite big men. It’s been apparent the last 10 games that he simply does not get difficult rebounds in traffic. Ever. In fact, he never really gets any rebound that doesn’t fall to him uncontested. The numbers back this up. His rebound rate is 11.7 (the % of missed shots he rebounds when on the court) — good for 96th in the league and worse than heavyweights like Memo Okur, Juan Dixon, Yi, Darko, Kwame, etc. (and .1 better than Lebron). Elite rebounders are near a rate of 20 (Howard, Camby, Chandler, Kaman, Duncan, and Bynum are all above 19.0). Pau is not only worse, he’s a lot worse — rebounding at about 50% of their rate. I’m not sure if the problem is lack of strength, leaping ability, or some combination, but he’s clearly not a reliable presence on the boards. Thankfully, this weakness is almost totally masked by the presence of Bynum and Odom, who are both elite rebounders by any measure. They will get the tough, contested boards, allowing Pau to focus on scoring. Hopefully Odom finds a way to crash down and help out when he moves to the 3.

    4. Defense. About as expected — just okay. He’s too thin to keep strong attacking bigs away from the basket, but is pretty crafty at denying position and drawing charges. He has length to affect some shots, but doesn’t have the leaping ability to be a real shotblocking presence (like Andrew) — Pau’s blocks are usually against a blind penetrator who didn’t see him coming and increase trajectory. I think he’ll be a solid, maybe even fantastic, secondary interior defender, but would be a real problem as our first line of defense against Duncan/Amare/Boozer if Bynum doesn’t come back.

    Thankfully, his strengths (interior scoring in the triangle) are not redundant and his weaknesses are probably totally masked by Bynum/Odom — making him the perfect fit for our team. There are other bigs producing at similar rates (Amare, Boozer, etc.) but I don’t think any would fit so seamlessly into our system given our personnel.

  7. 5-oops.ha. The Lakers play at home? well, less of a trap game, but like Kurt said, if they hang around…

  8. I still don’t think Kareem gets enough recognition in the “greatest ever” argument.

    We all know about Kareem’s substantial imprint on the record books, but to me, his most mindblowing accomplishment is that his two NBA Finals MVP awards came FOURTEEN YEARS apart! (1971, 1985).

    Just think for a minute about how difficult it would be for someone else to come along and do that – how quickly a player would have to establish championship-level dominance, and how long he would need to sustain that level, to match that feat.

  9. Lakers will come away with a win tonight and continue to increase the gap over the rest of the conference. Perhaps we can even finish with the best record in the league as the Celtics and Pistons struggle in the upcoming months.

  10. One fact I really like is the we have 16 of the next 26 games at home. Which is awesome for BIg Bynum when he gets back. Less travel will keep that knee of his feeling much better. I am hoping for an easy win so the starters shouldn’t be playing much if any into the 4th. I am bummed that Roy will be out. He is an exciting player. If you need proof of how good he is look at his stats in his first all-star game.

    I don’t know if you guys have seen this but it’s quite funny.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3265115&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab3pos1

  11. Excellent breakdown on Pau. He is obviously the reason the Lakers offense has been crazy efficient since he’s shown up, and I agree, he’s perfect for the triangle. His rebounding is weak, not much of a jumper nor does he physically block out well. Lamar doesn’t block out much either, but uses his length and athleticism to rebound. But a 4-5 combo that doesn’t block out leaves holes on the boards for aggressive rebounders. I vaguely remember his defense being indeed mediocre, but I’ve barely been able to watch the Lakers D’ lately. I mean, their offense has been putting on a frickin’ clinic lately, I’ve missed half their defensive possesions lately because I was jumping up and down from their previous basket.
    I put up a post yesterday that talks about what to me is the natural question to reed’s fine analysis: What happens to all these balances when Andrew’s back? To not repeat too much, my thoughts= offense-slightly down, rebounding-much less vulnerable, in fact quite strong, defense-adding Andrew obviously improves us here. The LA Times ran a Lakers-Celtics matchup projection today, that mentions how Pierce would give LO all kinds of problems (and let’s not even talk about LeBron). But out West, I don’t see any big problems at the 3 for LO.

  12. (6) Reed,

    I’d wait for the NEXT 10 games if you want to crunch numbers on Gasol for defense. Even then, it may be premature, since he then may be adapting to his natural position with the Lakers at power forward.

    Pau’s career rebound statistics are overall surprisingly similar to Lamar’s. His “awful” career rebound rate is about the same as Lamar’s “outstanding” career rebound rate. With the Lakers so far, Pau’s scoring is slightly up–his rebounding is slightly down.

    Pau’s one-on-one defense is very very good but it is mostly tactics, finesse, and quickness. His intelligence as a team defender will help the Lakers develop great helping presence when Andrew comes back. After all, his team in Spain won the championship due to team defense.

    So far, his career mark with the Lakers is his unraveling of Dwight Howard. During the first few encounters, Dwight intimidated and posterized Pau. A few encounters later, Dwight got his first offensive foul. By halftime, he was on the bench, not able to guard Gasol, and not able to get position on offense without fouling. He never recovered–and the Lakers won.

  13. drrayeye, are you referring to the same rebounding rate that reed is?

    I think reed is referring to % of rebounds available while the player is on the floor. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing you’re referring to rebounds per game.

  14. As the old cliche goes, one game at a time kids… Lakers need to do the little things right tonight: Not turn the ball over, guard against the 3 ball, and space the floor on offense.

    We cannot overlook this opponent and play to their level.

  15. Here’s an article about Yao. Says he will either have surgery or use a cast and crutches to rest the foot. Either way he is expected to take about four months to heal and should participate in the Olympics:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AruLJcDqi7f0y_7FIcbsKsm8vLYF?slug=ap-rockets-yao&prov=ap&type=lgns

    On a similar note, I was listening to the Loose Cannons on KLAC today and they were saying Andrew Bynum is responding well to rehab and therapy and that he’s projected to come back at the beginning of April, with about 8 games remaining before the playoffs. On kind of a down note, they said were estimating Trevor Ariza could come back as soon as the first or second round of the playoffs, or in a worst case scenario could be out for the year. Take it with a grain of salt though because they were just guessing – nothing to back it up as far as I heard. Has anyone on here heard anything new recently on Trevor Ariza’s recovery?

  16. Luke Walton in the starting 5 is irksome at best. Andrew and Trevor, we miss you so…

  17. Yao’s season-ending injury is pretty significant.

    The Lakers have 1 game left against the Rockets. That would have been a meaningful game.

    Other teams with just 1 game remaining: DAL, SA, UTA, and GS.

    Lucky teams with 2 games remaining: DEN, PHX, and NO.

    No teams w/ 3 or more games remaining.

  18. I’m interested to see how Farmar closes out this season. He is playing good ball and is a real big piece to our rotaion and how the bench plays.

    Isnt this about the same point in the last season where he started running into that proverbial wall??
    I would hate to see Farmar regress at all because, as i said, he is very important to the team.

    Thoughts??

  19. Drrayeye–

    First, congratulations on Gasol. I fought you on trading Bynum for him all summer, and although I’m happy that did not happen, I admit that he is much, much better than I knew and a godsend for this team. I never understood your singleminded obsession with the Spaniard, but I’m starting to see it now.

    I agree about waiting to analyze Pau on defense. He’s playing out of position as the 5 on defense, so we don’t know what he can do until backed up by a true center. I agree about his craftiness as a one on one defender and noticed how he took Howard out of the game. He’s wiley, but still ultimately limited as a defensive backbone. I expect he’ll excel as a #2 deterrent.

    As far as rebounding, I’m looking at season wide statistics, not the last 10 games (as I did with shooting %’s). My eyes told me he was a really poor rebounder and the numbers back that up. Rebounding rate is a lot more insightful than rebounds per game and his is really poor (11.7 on the season). His rate is a little down this year, but wholly in line with career performance. Odom, on the other hand, rebounds at a 15.0 rate. This harmonizes with what we see in games — it is Odom digging out the tough rebounds, not Gasol. I don’t think this is a big deal because Drew is one of the elite rebounders in the league — a 19.5 rate, just off of Howard’s league leading 21.7 clip. Unlike Pau, Bynum blocks out the lane and skies above opponents for contested boards.

    It’s nice to have our key player’s weaknesses so obviously mitigated by others strengths. No other team can say that to the degree we now can.

  20. There’s a new article on RespectKobe.com.

    It’s an in-depth analysis of statistics in context:

    http://www.respectkobe.com/?p=18

    The author shows why you can’t just compare two players statistics straight up. So, when evaluating field goal %, rebounds, assists, etc., he shows that Kobe is a MORE EFFICIENT shooter, a better rebounder, and at least as good a passer as LeBron.

    If you enjoy statistics, it’s a fascinating read. And if you ever use statistics to compare two players, then this is something you NEED to read.

    KOBE 4 MVP

  21. nbahaterade.blogspot.com February 26, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Re: the revival of Lamar Odom. Something that occured to me–could it have been that Odom’s poor play of past was due to paying too much attention to Kwame? How many times has he tried to get Kwame going at his own expense?
    But now with Pau, it’s the other way around, and Odom has responded well. A little farfetched, but may carry some truth.

  22. I was looking forward to playing Portland with Brandon Roy in the lineup. I agree 100% about Lamar Odom and him finally cutting to the basket. Something fans have been asking of him for the longest time. Part of that could be Gasol’s ability to play further out from the basket so the cuts are a lot more wide open.

  23. Great analysis all around, as usual.

    Reed – Is it possible when Bynum comes back that Odom drifts more to the basket on defense with Pau maybe looking to leak out when shots go up? That way you’ve got Bynum and Odom crashing the boards while Pau might be able to get early position on the other end. I can’t wait to see how the team’s gonna look once everyone (Bynum) is healthy.

    I too was looking forward to Roy being there with the Blazers, but hopefully he’ll be better for the rematch in a few days.

  24. Have we heard any talk of the Lakers going after Magloire and/or Barry? wouldnt these be good moves to solidify our lineup?

  25. remember that game against Utah when they were playing without 2 starters, and they blew us out?? (at Home!)

    well, Phil probably will bring that up tonight in the pre-game, just because Roy is out, don’t assume this is a cake walk, that the rest of the Blazers can’t play, or else this could be a repeat of the Utah game.

    this is what I like about PJ, he knows that a loss can bring benefits down the road, and I bet he’s using this one for tonight.

  26. Omar, does the Lakers’ lineup need solidifying at this point? I think the best argument for going after either Magloire, Barry or Cassell would just be to keep them away from other teams, but other than that I think the Lakers are pretty set at most positions.

  27. nbahaterade.blogspot.com,
    Your point about Lamar has some real merit. Lamar is always trying to help and is not a strategic thinker. What this means is that he will always try to pass the ball and will pass to anybody – without thought about how that person might handle the ball – he is indiscriminate in his passing. Since Kwame stayed pretty much down low Lamar was passing into the paint – his natural proclivity. With Pau moving around and Lamar moving around there isn’t much room to pass the rock when you are moving to the basket so Lamar finishes the play. I still see times when he over passes, but by taking the ball on the move, there is much less of this behavior.

  28. 24 Omar

    Barry? We have Sasha and Fish. Magloire? Let Dallas have him.

  29. 24. The Lakers have won seven in a row, are 9-1 in their last 10, and you want to bring Maglore (who couldn’t get off the bench in New Jersey, which has no real center) or another shooter when we have trouble finding time for the ones we’ve got? Leave the roster alone.

  30. I just wanted to get this on record so that when it happens I look like a genius. Mark my words boys and girls, Gasol and Bynum are going to fight for top FG% in the league next season. They’ll both be in the top 5 the whole time, and I expect them to trade top honors to each other a couple times during the year.

    If Odom can keep anything CLOSE to this intensity for an entire season, we could have 3 players in the top 20 in FG%. That’s something exciting to think about.

  31. I bear no illusions about it happening, but… I’ve always loved Cassell for his ability as a pure shooter. Perhaps it’s a silly idea, but I’d love having Sam down the stretch. PG by committee or small, two PG, line-ups while Kobe rests or shifts to the three.

    Again, nothing more than some idle musings. Although I certainly would cringe to see him move onto the roster of a potential playoff opponent, Sam is one dangerous fella in big games.

  32. Just a recommendation. Is it possible to list the location of the game up at the top of the blog on game day entries? Thanks.
    vr, Xei

  33. 6 Titles
    6 MVP’s
    Rookie of the year
    19 All-Star appearances
    … and one of the greatest basketball movie quotes ever.

    “LISTEN KID! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”

  34. 8 – I don’t mean to hate on Kareem (especially not here!), but the Lakers had Kareem for four years before they won a championship with him, which was (coincidentally…) Magic’s rookie year, when he put the team on his back and won the clinching game of the FInals without Kareem. Of course he was a key player on all of the Lakers championship teams of the era, but the real MVP was always Magic, despite what the voters decided after the 1985 Finals. Kareem was an all-time great, but you can’t be considered the best player ever if you weren’t even the best player on your team.

  35. Louis C.
    I think you don’t have your vision straight; either that or your didn’t really see Kareem throughout his career.

    Nobody wins it alone – not Wilt, not Russell, not Shaq, not Dr J., not Larry Bird, not Magic, not Michael – nobody. That is as true for Kareem as for any of the people I mentioned above – so enough already about the 4 years.

    Kareem was the dominant player during his time in the league, where ever he played. You could not stop him; you could not out rebound him; he saved his team’s mistakes in the middle. No, he wasn’t Shaq or Wilt, but he was more talented than Shaq and Wilt’s equal on the court – even if not as dominating as Wilt in his heyday. Kareem was a complete player and a complete man. His reputation does not do him justice today – and he is the all time scoring leader in the NBA.

    We are not happy unless a person has a larger than life personality and this works against Kareem – he was/is a very thoughtful and intelligent person. He was taught by John Wooden, who believed in an even disposition – neither too high or too low. This is something Phil Jackson also teaches.

    I saw Kareem play from the time he came to UCLA until his retirement from the NBA. That was a great, great player who could stand with anyone – probably above Michael Jordan, or at the very least on the same level. If you didn’t see him play don’t knock his talent.

  36. Lakersfan88

    Last week bynum said he was 4-6 weeks back. In that interview he said he would like to return before april, best case scenario. If they said he was responding really well I think the best we can hope for is some time late march for bynum to return.

    About ariza, they said he was about 8 weeks away last week.

  37. I agree with #26. No changes need to be made this year. This team does not need to add any more players. I do think how well we fare in the playoffs this year will determine if changes are necessary in the off-season. Having said that, regardless of our outcome in the playoffs, I REALLY like our squad as is (especially the core). If there are any changes, it would probably be to upgrade the following 5 players (in no particular order): Mihm, Mbenga, Coby Karl, Luke or Vlad. I’m hoping we don’t have to………I like everyone on the team!!

  38. Sasha has been lighting it up lately. Lets hope he contiues to show that same amount of tenacity. He needs to keep his confidence up and provide some offense to keep kobe off the floor if they don’t need him out there.
    That being said, it was inevitable that someone was going to drop from the playoff race. Yao’s injury would indicate to me it will be Houston. But what i’m most interested in is seeing if McGrady gives up on the season… again. Or maybe his back will flare up again…

    Go Lakers – here’s hoping tonight is a breeze!

  39. Charter is blowing it and cable is out in my area. Anybody have a link to watch the game online?

  40. 33 – My father still says your slow. He says you don’t even run up and down the court…

    raptorsnation.net
    Click other links
    Select Blazers vs Lakers
    Copy and Paste URL into your Windows Media Player.
    Alt+Enter for full screen (kinda grainy though).

    Cheers

  41. Lamar Odom is back! February 26, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Louis C- You got nothing to get excited about. The stats don’t show Kareem being the best throughout the Showtime Era. It only shows him being the best once or twice, up until 1982 (I don’t know the exact year showtime started, 80? 81? anybody?) But after that it was Bird and then Magic. Louis…………take a chill pill.

  42. Lamar Odom is back! February 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    I mean up until 81

  43. http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/7839988/On-the-Mark:-Kobe-has-a-chance-to-shine-

    Stuff like this just makes me mad. Guys like this are just Kobe haters and nothing Kobe does will ever make them change their minds.
    Kobe will be the MVP.

  44. 43 – I don’t see how you can begin to argue that Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better. It’s really too bad there are so many (supposedly educated) people that can’t get over their dislike of Kobe as a person enough to recognize what he does on the court. Hollinger’s another one who cannot get over the Shaq/Kobe incident enough to appreciate Kobe.

  45. Luke has got to come out of this game

  46. all you guys predicting a win..haha. They’re gonna lose tonight

  47. does any body know/have a link to the live broadcast they can share for somebody stuck at work?

  48. 46-still laughing?

  49. They’re still down right?

  50. better not over look this team tonight, but let’s see how it ends after 48 mins, the bench play, etc.
    too bad a bout LO in foul trouble, sort of messes up the rotations, cause ronnie can’t play the 5 now.
    the Lakers have to dig deep for tonight, for the Blazers a W tonight is like the season highlite.

  51. Oh ye of little faith. Good to see Jordan picking Fish up.

  52. Luke can’t make a jumper to save his life. How long before he starts passing up wide open shots?

  53. What the hell is going on…we have no defense, everyone was getting man-handled on one-on-ones…

    Blazers have been closing the lane in a semi zone defense.

    If our Lakers don’t make the proper adjustment for the 2nd half…we’ll be in for a long night.!@#!@#

    I hope we not falter…

    i hope this bad feeling will go away…

  54. I honestly think had LO not been in foul trouble, we would be tied at the half since without him our defensive rebounding was horrible. It really isnt panic time yet. There is a reason why the game is 48 minutes long.

  55. IT’s obvious what we are lacking…defensive positioning (BOX OUT) the BLAZERS have the green light to shoot from over 15ft since they know someone will get the offensive rebound.

    Also there’s too much settling for the jumper in our end and too much dribbling then ending to a contested shot. I haven’t seen an effective triangle/pick and roll /pop combo yet .

  56. Yup, I’m still laughing

  57. Wow, looks like Luke gets the hook 3 minutes into the 2nd half.

  58. Thank God…Luke is almost looking as useless as Smush.

  59. 55- could it be john R? or just someone who feels like trolling? ol’d John R seems to have dissappeared this year…hmmmm

  60. Reed, your thoughts about rebounding are on display tonite.

  61. Our defensive rebounding is atrocious so far. Lamar isn’t hoovering them up like he usually does, though this it’s probably because the Blazers have so many flat out athletes.

  62. Anyone else watching on NBA TV having serious video malfunctions?

  63. 61-not having any problems.

    Employee Number 8…er, 24, really looks like an MVP to me. Played within himself, kept the team involved, took over when necessary. Good grind out win.

  64. I’m becoming the world’s biggest Pau fan, but he is simply a terrible rebounder. Odom gets every tough board.

  65. kwame a — Came back in the nick of time. Good grind out win indeed. A little weird to see us score under 100, huh? When was the last time we did that and won (or did that at all)?

  66. Plus/Minus really tells the story tonight. Turiaf plus 6, Farmar plus 32, Sasha plus 35. Luke and Fish minus 19. 3 man bench gave us the boost along with Kobe.

  67. What would your response have been if someone had told you at the beginning of the season that the Lakers would be the first WC team to hit 40 wins? Goes to show how amazing this game is.

    From someone who couldn’t see the game, let me ask… Was our defense that good, or was Portland just that cold?

  68. I remember reading the comments of Blazers fans around the time when that 3-way deal between POR, DAL, and NJ was being discussed; they were up in arms about dealing away Outlaw. Now I understand why. Impressive.

    This game reminded me of the loss at Staples to the Celtics; the opponent was energized and the lakers were not. But this is the kind of game good teams will win.

  69. I miss Ariza! He would have been the perfect antidote to those mid-range jumpers by the freak athletes on POR. Of course, having Bynum wouldn’t have hurt either (defense and rebounding)!

    Great grind out win…….damn, Kobe plays hard EVERY game. Whether you hate him or love him……can’t deny his professionalism and dedication to work hard. He’s freakin’ amazing……..

  70. nbahaterade.blogspot.com February 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Craig W: Exactly what I was thinking. Odom has shifted a larger % of his touches from A. Passing into Kwame to B. Finishing at the rim and/or dishing to guys who don’t bobble the ball. His efficiency as a player has been monumentally affected by Pau’s substitution for Kwame. He cuts with decisiveness, something he never used to do when the ball was dumped into Kwame.

    Re: Kobe making his teammates better. Next time anybody says Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better, ask them what has happened pre and post-Kobe, to Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and Brian Cook.

  71. 46 & 55….still here?

    If you’re going to smack….make sure you have the scoreboard.

    Fish and Luke really struggled. It seems like they have hard time playing against great athletes, and POR and plenty of them. Lamarcus Aldridge is a offensive juggernaut. It’s good thing he doesn’t have the nasty disposition and the hops to dominate on the both ends of the floor.

    Ronny getting two and-one’s to close 2nd and 3rd quarters was just nice. It seems like whenever he hits The Machine with a pass, Sasha was nailing the 3. I think DFish needs to do a better job of playing within the system. Twice he launched unadvised quick shot, and POR got fastbreak buckets on both. Luke needs LO to play well it seems like. We need Radman and Ariza back at 3. Nice win. A very nice win.

  72. we’re smiling now…haha
    but it was a tough win, portland is gonna be a real contender over the next few years when they got Oden back, and a few of their draft picks.
    next up…Miami, it’s possible to have a 13 and 1 month, not too shabby…
    makes me want to SMILE
    (haha, love it when a troll has to eat some crow)

  73. not sure if this was mentioned, but we were getting killed on the boards in the first half and i think the coaching staff switched the defensive assignments at halftime putting Lamar on Pryzbilla and Pau on Aldridge. Lamar did a great job boxing out Pryz, and luckily Aldridge was only 3-5 in the 4th.

  74. Worried about the next Blazer game, esp since its on the back end of a back to back…

  75. I worry less about Friday’s game in Portland than I did tonight. The Blazers just woke up the Lakers and I doubt any of the young guys will overlook them on Friday. I also think Phil should have a short hook for Fisher and Walton because, I agree, they are probably less effective against very athletic clubs.

  76. The good thing is, I think lakers will be pumped for their next match with portland. I think they will want to come out and show a thing or two. And also maybe lamar will be able to play more than half a game.

  77. Good to win the ugly games just as much as the pretty ones.

    It’s been said by others, but this is one of those matchups where having Bynum & Ariza will really help.

  78. I’m starting to get annoyed by Pau’s tendency to tap rebounds instead of making more effort to come down with them. This hurt us a few times tonight. I echo 64’s comment about LO getting the tough rebounds.

  79. Wholeheartedly agree w/ 64 and 77 above. Reed hit it right on, Odom gets the tough rebounds, Pau does not. Odom does a really good job of BOXING out and then using his long arms to snare the board. There were a few times in the 4th when I saw him cover Pryz and Pau would take LaMarcus on D.

    Three players I’d take off the Blazers (that we saw tonight cuz I’d obviously take Roy n Oden):

    Travis Outlaw – It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he was playing a better game than Kobe through the 1st 3 quarters.

    Lamarcus Aldridge – def a keeper. Bill SImmons obv. has not really seen this guy play. Frontline of Oden and Aldridge is a SOLID future – should be good battles between them and Bynum-Gasol.

    Joel Przybilla – gritty player. Like the D. Like the toughness. 6 mil a year for the next 4 aint that bad for a back up big.

  80. I think everybody’s concerned with the team’s rebounding lately. Below is an excerpt of my post after the phoenix game.

    “I’m glad the guy’s pulled-out the win. However, I felt that the Suns exposed a chink on the team’s armor with this game… lack of inside muscle. Consider the stats:

    Offensive Rebounds – Phx 16 LA 7
    Defensive Rebounds – Phx 30 LA 26
    Total Rebounds – Phx 46 LA 33

    I am not saying that we suck in the defensive end but I really feel that the guys should make a concerted effort to help each other defensively most especially in rebounding. They should try to hold the fort until Andrew comes back most especially during games with teams that has a strong inside presence like the Spurs.”

    I hope the team can make the necessary adjustments before the other teams start to exploit the aforementioned weakness.

  81. reed, you are right on.
    the games i saw the Lakers VS. Bobcats and Heat, Pau struggled to box out Nazr Mohammed and even Marc Blount sometimes. I think he struggles mostly against stronger and more athletic big men who really work hard and crash the offensive glass.
    Also, Pau is not a GREAT one-on-one defender. He is decent, but nothing speaks “shut down” of his defense. And a lot of people were excited after the game against Magic, but the fact is D. HO got a terrible charging call against a flopping Pau on one possession and had some ticky-tack fouls. So, I really wouldn’t say Pau dominated Dwight in that matchup. Just my thoughts.

  82. (77)(64)(19)Cyranodbum, Reed,

    Please don’t try to overanalyze Pau. He can be a chamelion–sometimes a rebounder, sometimes a passer, sometimes a shot blocker, sometimes someone who “shuts down” an opponents–and sometimes an important part of a fast strike offense.

    One thing that he can’t be is everything all at once.

    All he does for the Lakers is win.

    I have been following Pau for over a year very carefully, and I learned a great deal about his exploits in Spain and Memphis. In Spain, he was sort of a Kobe Bryant figure–bigger than life–the guy who takes the winning shot–or makes the key block or steal. In Memphis, he was the Saviour who was mere mortal–and never forgiven for it by the fans. Although the “Shades of Blue” guys in Memphis all loved and admired Pau, many fans ultimately soured on him: for “reasons” like those you’ve expressed.

    Pau Gasol is a fine rebounder, but he is currently valued for many other things as well. He, Kobe, and Lamar have somehow split up a whole host of responsibilities rather effectively in a teamsmanship framework. It’s made the whole team better. On offense, Pau is Kobe’s “get out of jail free” card, forcing the opposition to weaken their double teams, making extremely high percentage shots and great passes. On defense, he has been a jack of all trades–but not always totally aware of his team role. That will evolve.

    One thing the Lakers don’t want him to do is to foul out or get injured. The reason he tips the ball rather than doing the extra effort is that he judges that the extra effort is not necessary–or would be futile. If the game is on the line, maybe he gets the rebound or takes the foul. He’s very cagey.

    The Lakers have only lost one game since Pau’s been a Laker–and they probably should have won that game. The Laker margin of victory has been creeping up. In this game against Portland, they held the Blazers in the 80’s (Taco time)–and got as many rebounds as they did. Pau got 10, Lamar got 11.

    The Lakers are on their biggest winning streak since championship years–they are #1 in the West, and ranked #1 in the NBA –and one of you is “starting to get annoyed” by Pau’s “tipping” the ball, and another one of you has decided, against all evidence to the contrary, that Pau is not up to the rebounding standards of Lamar. Now everyone is noticing Pau’s apparent inferiority in digging out those “tough one’s”

    What would you be saying if the Lakers just lost 9 games–like in Memphis. You’d be driving him out of town.

    Please don’t get started.

  83. Pau’s never been a good rebounder. He’s never had anybody around to teach him. The only reason why he pulls down so many rebounds (sometimes) is simply because of his size. Let’s hope he learns how to box out players now with LO, Bynum and KA-J now by his side! It can’t be that much worse!

  84. I think so too. As I said in one of my predictions, the Lakers got a break by getting a taste of Portland at home. The way that game was played, had it been played in the Rose Garden, would have been a loss for us. And so, I am penciling another win for us even though its on the back end of another back-to-back. I guess partly coz the front end is at home and its against Miami. We are too pumped right now. I wonder if Phil sets another benchmark for his team – reaching 50 wins before 25 losses.

  85. 79- I really like Outlaw’s game too. I don’t have a link, but I heard that for a couple of summers, he worked out one on one with Kobe.

    I think the confidence Sasha has developed is amazing. Dude truly is a weapon off the bench, even when he was struggling last nite, he played hard defense along with Faramar to turn the game around. I think there is no way the Lakers can lose him at the end of the year. He is the perfect Kobe back-up and plays well with Kobe at the 3, probably Kobe’s future position as he get a little older

  86. Good teams win these types of games.
    This is why it’s important to have a true #1 and #2.
    When you’re team is not playing that well, you’ve got to have TWO stars that can get you the win by making clutch baskets to close out the game. Lamar could never be counted on to do that.

  87. The Lakers were very flat-footed last night on rebounds, until the fourth quarter, when LO started vacuuming them in (8 of his 11 came in the 4th). It looked like the ball was falling Portland’s way all night, but really it was because the Lakers were all standing around waiting for the ball, and the Blazers went to it!

    I was getting worried when Fish was in for most of the 3rd, but was relieved to find out that Phil was just saving Farmar to play the whole 4th. That lineup with Kobe, LO, Sasha, and Jordan deserved to close out the game with the way each of those players were impacting the game. Ronny had a nice impact too, but Pau was clearly the coaching staff’s choice to match up with Aldridge in the second half.

  88. 71) “DFish needs to do a better job of playing within the system.”

    Farmar has a tendency to do that, too. Last night he was hitting his shots, but on the whole it can hurt the team.

    When Bynum gets back to playing significant minutes, the non-Bynum/Kobe/Gasol players will need to be willing to accept fewer scoring opportunities.

  89. 50 wins will definitely come before 25 loses.

    I really like this Blazers team. They have very fundamental. I love Aldridge’s hook shots. Amazing. I hope Bynum felt both inspired and challenged.

  90. I agree ex. There was a point in the third quarter (I believe) when Fish pulled up off the break to take a 20 footer, his left side fully contested. I think the Lakers were down by 7 at that point, and I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking. I have very little reason to doubt a veteran leader like Derek Fisher, but that was certainly a questionable decision. He had little rhythm throughout the game, and when you’re down by 5-7 at home late in the third, it’s just not a good time to try and assert yourself after two and a half quarters of being a non-factor.
    This is especially true of this particular game, because that 5-7 point deficit was legitimate, and Portland looked like a team that could play down to the wire with us last night, at least through 36 minutes; they went through a three or four minute spell in the third when every break was going their way, they were dominating on the offensive boards, etc. Granted, it’s tough to maintain against a deep, quality team like the Lakers, but those are the kind of “bounces” that can help a team upset someone.

  91. 81 Good point about Pau learning to rebound better. I’m continually amazed by how some teams develop their draft picks significantly better than others. (I wouldn’t want to be a young player in Chicago right now.) We’ve got the best in the business, Kareem, teaching our young bigs.

  92. Thought the premature celebratory streamer malfunction was going to wake the ghosts of Jack Kent Cooke and Red Auerbach…

  93. (Whoops – accidentally hit the enter button.)

    So anyway, my point was that I was surprised to see Fish take that jumper so early in the shot clock, with no one under the basket. If anything, he’s the guy that should look to settle his teammates down by making smart decisions derived from his winning experience. That’s what he can do for the Lakers team.

    Anyway, truth be told, we didn’t play very well for around 33 minutes last night. It’s cliche, but it’s true – good teams are supposed to win these games, though. Look at San Antonio the other night, only scoring twelve points in the first quarter.

  94. By the way, is Luke’s jumper lacking confidence or what?

  95. Oh, one more observation – Nate McMillan chose an awful time to lose composure and pick up 2 technicals. I thought those two technicals, and then ensuing basket, pushed the game out of reach for the Blazers. Kobe and Phil seem to pick up their share of T’s, but it doesn’t happen with less than half the 4th quarter left in a close game.

  96. I think this game highlighted the vulnerability of the Lakers to physical play. Portland is a strong, athletic team that tries to make up for lack of experience and skill by playing physical defense and using their athleticism to score in isolation. The Lakers have not responded very well to physical play, and spent way too much time crying to the officials about it. They need to get better at playing through and let the coaching staff work the referees. Bynum’s return will certainly help on that score. He seems to thrive on physical play.

  97. 93 (and everyone else criticizing quick shots) –

    Am I the only one who believes that taking those quick, low percentage shots is a good thing sometimes? It’s essentially the same thing Kobe’s been doing since he got in the league. It keeps the defenses from relaxing and opens up the lane for future fast breaks.

    I admittedly was a little shocked when Fisher started doing that this year (I don’t remember much of that in his earlier Laker years), but with him shooting lights out this year from distance, I don’t have a problem with a few of those per game.

  98. Fish has been shooting great this year, don’t get me wrong. That particular shot I referenced was just a bad basketball decision, though. He shot against his body with a man attached to his shooting hand, down two scores and playing to a restless crowd. If the argument for the quick shot is to be made, he can press to at least the 15 or 10 foot range, where his percentages for making a contested shot are much higher than they are from a step inside the three-point line.

    To me, that shot was obviously one that he took for himself. He was having an 0-fer, and was testing the waters more than he was thinking “open up the lane” (did the Lakers even have issues with an open lane off the break last night??). I’m cool with that shot, too, maybe if Sasha takes it, or obviously if Kobe takes it. That being said, it’s one of those things where you’re down a few scores and considering Portland had us down consistenly 9, 11, 9, 7 for the majority of the third… if you make it, you look brilliant, if you miss it, there’s a thousand other better decisions you could’ve made. I think I speak for every Lakers basketball fan when I say that – as much as we all love Kobe and would have no other player in that position – he’s made some terrible decisions pulling up to early for a bad shot in a close game over his career.

    I like any guy that’s got the confidence to pull the trigger, but there’s also certain circumstances in-game that demand basketball savvy over confidence. Portland dominated the first 10 minutes of the third quarter. You’ve got to be looking to get your game back. I’d go out on a limb and say the Lakers won that game in the fourth more because the Blazers collapsed than the Lakers beat them. Point is, Fish is the not the guy to take that shot, that’s all I’m saying, especially in that position. Hell, Kobe hasn’t even been gunning like that as of late.

  99. my first post….just wanted to share this great quote from msnbc

    “Because of the severity of the injury, doctors have advised that Kobe needs surgery now. Kobe, in turn, has decided to keep playing, which is his way of advising doctors that if they don’t like the risk he’s taking with his pinkie, he has another digit two spots over that may convey the message more clearly.”

  100. Kobe’s pinkie? I heard an analyst on ESPN the other day saying that he had played with a similar injury, and it will be extremely hard to make this particular injury any worse than it already is. I’m no physician, believe me, but it seems to make sense. The ligament is totally torn, there’s a bone chip swimming around… I’d like to hear what someone with better knowledge would have to say to this. Really… how much worse can it actually get, aside from a considerable increase in pain?

  101. DFish’s outside shot is most effective when his feet are set. Also, his shots are better from the shorter sides, not wings and top of the key. With that said, the shot he took was from the wing, off the dribble with 20 second on the clock. The rest of the team barely made it to the 3 point line on one of them, and the other time there was no other Laker who could guard against a fastbreak triggered by a long rebound. I just thought that he was being “selfish” trying to get his game going. Last night was a time he needed to focus on shutting down Blake’s penetration and help out with double teaming and good rotation on defense. All of which he failed to do. That goes same with Walton, too.

  102. Agreed, pb. Luke is struggling consistently now.

  103. Fish just had 1 poor game. Hopefully it doesn’t last longer. Can’t say the same about Luke though.

    I guess we cant be getting too greedy though… Luke’s struggles coupled with Radman’s new injury has only opened up more time for Sasha.

  104. Interesting article in the LA Times today on the ailments of Luke, it’s effect on his PT, and a possible hint concerning the healing time for VladRad (1 week). Don’t have time to provide the link.

  105. Some of you guys can be over analyzing nit picking lunatics. The Lakers have lost 1 game since Pau came on board, and that was the game after Kobe tore ligaments. It was also, by far, Pau’s weakest game as a Laker.

    They did not get Pau to become a rebounding and defensive specialist. He was to be and has become the reliable second offensive option on the team. Actually they had Pau cover Aldridge in the second half because Aldridge was shooting over Lamar, and he had trouble doing that against Pau.

  106. 100 – Rule of thumb: don’t take medical advice from ESPN to heart. It’s a big chance to even take sports analysis from ESPN for much more than chatter.

    You can read all over the internet on what the risks are of not treating the pinky finger. The most common/likely from what I remember reading is deformation of the finger.