Records: Lakers 30-16 (5 seed); Nets 20-27 (8 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (5th); Nets 103.6 (25th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.5 (8th); Nets 109.6 (22nd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Nets: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Josh Boone, Sean Williams
Lakers Notes: Itâ€™s Super Tuesday â€” Pau Gasol will start his first game as a Laker. Reports out of practice yesterday were that Pau picked up the offense quickly, but weâ€™ll see how much burn he gets (sore back and all). Whatever happens, Iâ€™m just happy to see him in that #16 jersey.
Thereâ€™s been a real bounce in the Lakers step the last two games, since the trade was announced, but that has been more on the offensive end than on defense. It helped that the Lakers played two teams that played questionable defense, particularly against Kobe. (Did you notice the last couple games that Kobe would get the ball in a threatening position, the hard double team would come, Kobe would dribble out of pressure to a non-threatening spot, and the guy doing the double would retreat to his man, leaving Kobe back in one-on-one defense. Then he would blow by his guy for a lay-up with almost no defensive rotation. Odd defensive choice, once you double Kobe donâ€™t you want to keep up the pressure and make him pass? The Raptors got burned on that a lot and the Wizards a couple times.)
In the last 10 games, without Bynum, the Lakers have a defensive rating of 111.7 â€” basically five points more per 100 possessions than they give up for the season. Look at it this way, those are worse than last seasonâ€™s numbers and would be 25th in the league this season. While the last two games were blowout wins, the defensive ratings were 108.3 (Washington) and 116.1 (Toronto). What won the Lakers those games was crazy offensive efficiency (offensive ratings of 139 against Washington, 122 against Toronto). But if the Lakers are going to keep winning they need to get the defense back on track.
Hopefully, Pau in the lineup will help as he can provide some D in the paint. Ronny and Mbenga provide some, but the Lakers still clearly miss Bynumâ€™s presence on defense.
Speaking of that little bump of energy the Lakers have had, doesnâ€™t it seem Vladamir Radmanovic was second to Kobe on that? Radman was driving the lane against the Wiz like he thought he was Chris Paul. But Radman and Walton have to start making their case for minutes right now â€” they see the landscape of the Pau trade, likely pushing Lamar to start at the three, and they see their minutes cut. (I know there are some calling for bringing Odom off the bench, but I think we can safely say that even if Phil is going to come to that decision heâ€™s not going to do it for a while.) Then someday Ariza is going to come back, and suddenly there are more quality players then there are minutes at the three and four. It gives Phil a lot of luxury in terms of matchups and an ability to go with the hot hand, but the players they may not be as thrilled. Weâ€™ll see who steps up and earns the burn.
More Aaron McKies: Aaron McKie, trying to break into coaching as an unpaid assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers this season, became part of the trade with the Memphis Grizzlies to help make the salaries work out.
But donâ€™t worry, according to an interesting post (and great bit of reporting) by Henry at True Hoop, the Lakers also still have the rights to Ron Harper, Karl Malone, Shammond Williams, Horace Grant, Mitch Richmond, John Salley and, Brian Shaw to use in any future trade. As we said at the time of the trade, a lot of teams keep the rights to retired guys for just this type of situation, click the link and check out the entire list.
The Nets Coming In: Well, I guess we wonâ€™t be hearing as much â€œJason Kidd to the Lakersâ€ talk as we would have before Pau came to town.
As bad as they Nets record is, it really should be worse. They have 20 wins but their Pythagorean record (based on points scored and given up) is that of a 15 win team. As a team they have been getting good play from the big three of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson, but not the great play you expect from those three. All three are shooting just about 48% (eFG%) (in fact the only person playing a significant role who is shooting better than 50% if rookie Sean Williams). And with that supporting cast you need great play from the big three. Kidd, who looked great last summer with Team USA, now looks tired and by all reports his mind is in the Bahamas, or maybe Dallas. Iâ€™m not sure having a happy and pumped Kobe come to town is going to help that any.
The Nets have their own new player from a trade expected to suit up tonight, Stromile Swift should play his first game for the Nets. He helps make them more athletic, and I would have moved him for Jason Collins in a heartbeat (this season Swift has a PER of 16, while Collins has one of 2. Thatâ€™s right, 2. For comparison, the league average is 15 and Kwame Brown had a PER of 9.9). Swift is just 28, plus the Nets have two draft picks from the last couple of years (Josh Boone and Sean Williams) who may be something to start rebuilding around. Once they move Kidd and Carter. Good luck with that.
Keys To The Game: With Nenad Krstic having played just 13 games this season, the Nets used to have Collins as their center. Which meant all their offense came from the perimeter. Now Sean Williams and Josh Boone along the front line they are at least getting some offense â€” Boone has averaged 12 points10 boards in the last 10 games. The Lakers, especially with Gasol, have the length to limit some of his points and turn the Nets back into a perimeter team, where they struggle.
According to the scouting report at Lakers.com, the Nets want to get easy baskets in transition (which makes sense with Kidd passing and guys like Carter and Williams who can finish) but if you take those away from them they bog down some in the half-court offense. Transition defense will be a big key.
On offense, the Lakers just need to be aggressive â€” and hit their free throws. The Nets foul a lot, 27th in the league in free throws to field goals â€” so if the Lakers attack as they have the last couple of games they will get to the line. They just have to hit them.
A fast start also would be a big help. For as bad as the Nets have played (2-8 in their last 10) they have a lot of talent, and guys that have won big games and hit big shots. If the Lakers can jump out to a fast lead it may demoralize the Nets, and the Lakers can get another easy win on the road. But let them hang around and you have to worry about Kidd making a great play with the game on the line, and he can still do that.
Where you can watch: Game time is 4:30 Pacific and that is what time you can catch the game on NBA TV. However, out in LA it is KCAL (channel 9) and that means, a 5:30 pm television time.