Archives For March 2008

Records: Lakers 48-22 (2 seed, percentage points back of New Orleans); Warriors 43-26 (8 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.2 (3rd); Warriors 114 (4th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.6 (5th); Warriors 110.5 (22nd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Warriors: Barron Davis, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington

Thanks guys Big thanks to Gatinho and kwame a. for doing an amazing job stepping in while I stepped out. Fantastic posts.

Mardy Fish and the Warriors: Stay with me, this is about basketball.

The most interesting match I saw out at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament was then 98th ranked journeyman American Mardy Fish taking on the once unstoppable force of Roger Federer. Fish plays a game of all offense — huge serve, always seeming to go for the winner (particularly on the first couple of shots of the rally) and generally going for broke. But, get him to play a defensive-game, dictate the tempo he plays at, and he is not a huge threat.

The problem is, when a guy like that is on, he is almost unbeatable for a day. And Fish was on against Federer, hitting every shot hard and in, attacking every chance he could and a few he couldn’t and still making it work. After the match Federer said little went wrong with him, it was all Fish (6-3, 6-2).

Fish basically is the Golden State Warriors of tennis. When they are hitting threes (say 50% in the first half and 40% for the game), when they can get out and run without paying a price, they are hard to beat. Adding to Federer’s problem was he was not his unbeatable self, he had a lot of unforced errors — basically the turnover of tennis. Those took Fish off the hook and allowed him to continue to be aggressive. The Lakers did that early last night with the Warriors, playing sloppy on offense which allowed the Warriors to do what they do best.

(By the way, Federer essentially was the San Antonio Spurs of tennis, able to dictate his game despite what anyone wanted to do. The only people who gave him trouble were guys who were hot for the day — Safin in Australia a few years ago — or great defensive players such as Nadal. But, like the Spurs, one wonders if Federer has lost a step. We’ll find out about the Spurs in the playoffs, Federer at Wimbledon.)

The Lakers made a heroic comeback, but those often flatten out as the team expends so much to get even they lack a finishing kick for the stretch run (to mix in another sports metaphor). It happens, and frankly after that first half I’m not sure the Lakers deserved a win.

Somebody suggested in the comments we may want to avoid Golden State in the first round — I say bring them on. What the Lakers lacked last night was an inside attack to really punish the way the Warriors want to play. I love Ronny, but he is no Gasol/Bynum on offense. If the Lakers started Gasol and brought Bynum off the bench in a first-round matchup, the Warriors would have no good counter. What got Dallas into trouble last year was 1) they got away from the type of game they want to play and played at Golden State’s pace; 2) Dampier is the only inside guy for the Mavs, Nowitzki lives on the perimeter or 15 feet out. Phil would not make those mistakes.

My NCAA Bracket: This is all you need to know — my wife is ahead of me in the standings. I spent a lot of time debating a couple of games in the second round — Marquette/Stanford and Davidson (I had that first round win)/Georgetown. In the end, I went with Marquette and Georgetown. And you wonder why I hate to make predictions.

I have just 8 of the final 16 still alive, I’ve already down to six possible for the elite 8, and the only saving grace is all four of my final four teams live. The best pick I had so far, Kansas State over USC in the first round.

Keys To The Game: In a weird roll reversal of most games, the way to control the Warriors offense is at the Lakers offensive end. First, take care of the ball, no turnovers. Second, run the offense and dictate your own tempo — don’t rush your shots. Odom, Luke, I’m talking to you, play at your pace. Third, pound the ball inside for baskets, ideally with bigs but penetration will work too.

Then, get back in transition D.

The Lakers did well on the glass last night, but they needed more points inside and needed to take care of the ball (17.5% of the Lakers possessions ended in a turnover, up from the 15.1% average for the season, and the first half was horrible).

And, close on Stephen Jackson if he’s hot.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 pm on both KCAL (9) in Los Angeles and league pass nationally

“I think we’re the front-runner. If we had a healthy roster, I’d be very much more comfortable saying that. But at this point, given our schedule, I think we have a real good opportunity.”

-Phil Jackson

Records: Lakers 48-21 (1 seed), Warriors 42-26 (8 seed West) (4 seed East)

Offense Ratings: Lakers-109.7 (3rd), Warriors-109.4 (4th)
Defense Ratings: Lakers- 102.3 (5th) Warriors- 106.1 (22nd)
Projected Starting Lineups-
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vlad Rad, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Warriors: Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington, M.Pietrus, Stephen Jackson

Pietrus and Croshere are both listed as questionable.

I don’t know.. whether to Fear the Beard or realize that Baron Davis was born to Roller-skate?

Why We Should all be happy (Pacers v. Bulls last-night): When I looked at the box score/recap this morning I saw that another Bulls player, Andres Nocioni, got benched for screaming at his coach (add him to the list of Ty Thomas, Joakim Noah, Chris Duhon and the departed Big Ben). I saw that Jermaine O’neal missed his 30th consecutive game. It all made me think, wow, Kobe has to got to be happy not to be on the Bulls, and the Lakers have got to be happy not to have traded Andrew for Jermaine O’neal.

GS coming in: The Warriors are coming off a tough loss to the Rockets. Monta Ellis is having a great 3rd season (if they re-did the 2005 draft he would be drafted 4th after Paul, Williams and Bynum) and averaged a ridiculous 26 pts a game in February. Rookie Brendan Wright has been coming on as of late, and if he could ever get consistent minutes, he could become a key contributor. Baron Davis is the straw that stirs the drink in Oakland, but Steven Jackson is the ice. His defense keeps this team in games and inspires his mates to do the same.Watching Jackson this year, I think he is one of the best defenders in the NBA. He can guard anyone from Dirk to Nash, and he will do his best to harass Kobe tonight. Look for Kobe to try to get him in foul trouble.

Last Time These Two Met: Baron Davis was blowing three-fingered kisses, while Kobe sat on the bench and watched. Golden State beat the Lakers 108-106 at home on Dec. 14 to snap a nine-game overall losing streak to Los Angeles.

Streaking is Fun: The Warriors have had some trouble winning at Staples. The Warriors have won just two of the last 16 meetings between the teams. They finally broke a 15 game losing streak with a win over the Clippers on Friday. The Warriors have lost 9 straight to the Lakers at Staples. But the Warriors have also been excellent at staying away from losing streaks. Sans the six game jag to start the season without Steven Jackson, the Warriors have yet to lose in consecutive contests.

Possible First Round Opponent: This is the first of a back to back home and home set and also a potential first round playoff match-up. Where the Lakers may really have their hands full is tomorrow in Oakland. The Warriors feed off the energy of their home crowd more than any team in the league.

Keys to the Game: Phil Jackson v. Nellie is always entertaining, neither like to give in to the other one’s moves. Phil wants to control tempo and pound the ball inside, Nellie wants the game to go up and down and drain threes. The key for the Lakers is not to get tempted into taking quick jump shots. If the Lakers are patient they can get any shot they want, this should be a game where Lamar and Kobe and whoever else, initiate their offense inside.

Where you can Watch: FSN West and League Pass (6:30 PST)

-Kwame a. with Gatinho

Forum and Powder Blue

Gatinho —  March 22, 2008

“When the Lakers arrived in Los Angeles in 1960 basketball was very much an unknown factor in the city’s sport’s psyche.”

-Roland Lazenby

Over the past 40 plus years the combination of Bruin and Laker basketball has brought the game from a single paragraph in the back page of the Times to the most viewed articles on its website.

The first Bruin drafted by the Lakers was John Green in 1962.

In 1964 the legacies of these institutions would continue their interweaving. That year the Lakers drafted Walt Hazzard from John Wooden’s first UCLA National Championship team. The Lakers used their then territorial rights, which were designed “…to take advantage of the regional popularity of college stars…Teams were given the option of forfeiting their first-round pick and instead selecting, before the start of the draft, a player from the franchise’s immediate geographical area.”

Things wouldn’t work out for Hazzard as a Laker because some guys named Jerry West and Elgin Baylor were already there .

“Getting drafted by the Lakers did him a disservice in some respects. At another place he would have gotten an opportunity to play.” -Jerry West

But Hazzard would return as coach of UCLA in 1984-85 winning 77 games and losing 48.

In 1965 the Lakers would pick another luminous UCLA guard, and he would become the smallest player to have his jersey hanging from the rafters. Gail Goodrich scored 42 points in the 1965 NCAA final as UCLA beat favored Michigan State. As a Laker he would become an All-star, win a championship, and average almost 24 points game.

As UCLA would reach national prominence, and the Lakers were continually making their annual trip to the Finals to be beaten by the Celtics, Los Angeles would begin establish itself as the west coast Mecca.

When Luke Walton’s father Bill attended UCLA, he saw it as the birth of a Golden Age for Los Angeles’ local cagers.

“At UCLA I went to all the Lakers games…I was there from ’70 through ’74 and these were great Lakers years. We were winning 88 straight games… and they were winning 33 straight games… It was phenomenal.”

The Lakers would continue to draft Bruins through the 70’s and acquire Thee Bruin hoopster in a 1975 trade that would have the Lakers sending, among others, UCLA’s Dave Meyers, the second pick in that year’s draft to the Buck’s in exchange for the Captain.

The next chapter in the shared history of the teams came when Swen Nater, the only player ever to be drafted first without starting a game in his senior season, would come to the Forum Blue as part of the trade that would send a suddenly redundant Norm Nixon to the Clippers.

But what is it like to be an Angeleno and accomplish the dream exacta? Play for the Bruins, get drafted by and play for the Lakers.

On draft day…San Antonio and Philadelphia had shown the most interest in me, but when I got the call and heard Jerry West and Bill Sharman on the other end of the line, I thought ‘Wow, I get to stay home.’ Jerry West was my favorite player growing up in the area, and it was just amazing that he was telling me that I had just been drafted by the Lakers. I had the opportunity to play with a young Magic Johnson and a basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and be part of a team that revitalized Lakers basketball. It’s what you dream about doing as a kid.”

If you ask most Laker fans who was drafted in the first round in 1979, they will immediately say…Brad Holland? In ’79 the Lakers had two first round picks, and Holland would go 14th after Magic with a pick that would complete a childhood dream.

The Lakers would sign, Jamal Wilkes, another Bruin as a free agent in 1979. His twenty foot lay-up would be instrumental in that mythical 1980 Finals game 6 win. Jamal would score 37 points and grab 10 rebounds in that pivotal game.

Through the 80’s the connectivity would continue as Lakers and other pros would show up at UCLA’s campus in the summer to run pick-up games.

Overall the Lakers have drafted 9 Bruins and 16 players have worn both blues.

Keith Erickson, Tracy Murray, and Jelani McCoy would contribute in varying ways when they came through L.A. as pros. Toby Bailey would be drafted in the second round by the Lakers but would be traded to Phoenix.

Which brings us to Jordan Farmar. Farmar was a star at Taft High and took the Bruins to the National Champiship game before being drafted by the Lakers with the 26th pick. The current Bruin total would reach two when Trevor Ariza was acquired in a trade.

Farmar has shown a courageous demeanor in his sophomore season and could develop into a consistent offensive and play making guard for a young Laker team with a bright future.

As UCLA has returned to prominence and is a favorite in this year’s current tournament, and the Lakers have formed a young nucleus who could potentially terrorize the NBA once they are all healthy and have time to mesh, we see how far Los Angeles basketball has come. From humble beginnings, UCLA playing at Venice High School and the Lakers fighting for time at the Sports Arena, Los Angeles basketball seems primed to add to the ongoing history of the LA hoops story.

-Gatinho

Preview and Chat: Seattle Sonics

Reed —  March 21, 2008

Records: Lakers: 47-21 (1 seed); Sonics: 16-52 (Hoping for Beasley).
Lakers Offense: 113.8 pts per possession (4th); Lakers Defense: 106.5 pts per possession (6th).
Sonics Offense: 101.4 pts per possession (30th); Sonics Defense: 109 pts per possession 110.8 (23rd).
Starting Five Lakers: Odom, Vlad, Turiaf, Kobe, Fish.
Starting Five Sonics: Green, Wilcox, Petro, Durant, Watson.
Key Reserves Sonics: Collison, Ridonur, Wilkins.

Seattle Notes: Looking at the recent comments from Shaq and Grant Hill (basically saying they think the Sonics belong in Seattle) I found myself thinking, yea, why shouldn’t they stay. Great city, passionate fans (remember how loud it got there during the Payton/Kemp years) and people willing to put up the money (various billionaires have stepped forward with a plan that splits the bill with the State). Just doesn’t seem right for them to leave.

Laker Notes: The two wins over Dallas and Utah, coming against the two best home teams in the NBA, give the team a much needed boost headed down the home stretch. I think Phil Jackson should be at the top of the list for Coach of the Year. For all those that think of him as guy who can only win with talent, look at what he has done developing Sasha, Jordan, Ronny, even Luke. Finding roles that work for LO, Vlad, he has just pushed the right buttons this year, and with the talent on the roster (especially with the injured players coming back) I like the Lakers chances in any playoff series.

Tonight: The Lakers cannot take the Sonics lightly, they stuck with Phoenix the other night thanks to a sloppy 27 turnovers by Phoenix. The Sonics don’t really have anyone for Kobe, and this could be a game he goes off early and rests late. Regardless, it would be great to see the crisp offensive execution and focused defense by the team exhibited from basically start to finish against the Jazz.

Where to watch: FSN and League Pass (one of the Sonics announcer is the great Steve “Snapper” Jones).

Tournament: Whose bracket is still in tact? Whose bracket is busted? Western Kentucky game was awesome, Stephen Curry from Davidson dropped 40, and is Mayo going pro?

Kwame A.

News: Newble signing is official.

Preview and Chat: Utah Jazz

Kurt —  March 20, 2008

Records: Lakers 46-21 (1 seed); Jazz 45-24 (4 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.7 (4th); Jazz 114.5 (2nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (5th); Jazz 108.2 (14th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

Tennis Anyone? I’m going out to Palm Desert for the weekend to watch the last couple rounds of the Indian Wells tennis tournament (the Pacific Life Open, on your local Fox network). I mean, I don’t want to go, but if my wife is forcing me to go look at teenage Russian girls in short skirts, who am I to say no? For me it will be a weekend of tennis and then going to a bar for lunch to watch my NCAA pool crumble, so no new posts from me until next week. However, a few of the regular favorites around here may pitch in.

Because I’ve got packing to do this will be short today. Not that I’m an efficient packer with the tourney on….

Lakers Notes: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again, and so it is that it turns out my hunch that Phil Jackson was trying to take some pressure off of Andrew Bynum was correct. Turns out the kids should be ready to get some minutes in about two weeks, coming off the bench for half-a-dozen or so games to end the season.

The best part of that is being able to get some minutes with Bynum and Gasol on the floor at the same time, a lineup we are going to need to come through against some teams in the playoffs.

The Jazz Coming In: We got some Jazz questions answered by the men behind the My Utah Jazz blog (and check out my answers to their questions, where I defend Fisher).

Why the Jekyll/Hyde routine with this team between the home (29-3) and road (16-21)?

Million dollar question. While the cat’s away, the mice will play? Time for Jerry to institute his famous curfew apparently. How crazy is this: The Jazz have lost to every Eastern conference non-playoff team except Milwaukee. Are you kidding me? This team always seems to come prepared for the big games against playoff caliber teams, but they struggle against lesser opponents. The ESA is a tough place to play because Utah fans only have one team to get riled up for. I haven’t been to Staples, but I have been to the Pepsi Center, and it didn’t come close to the energy at…um….Energy Solutions Arena. The players seem to feed off of the crowd.

What is Kyle Korver providing on the court that has helped out the Jazz offense so much? Is it just a matter of finally having a shooter that can really spread the floor?

I have had this question on a few other chats with bloggers. All I can say he is has gone from Zero to Hero. The guy was the Jeff Hornacek of this decade. His ability to spread the floor, combined with Memo’s recent outbreak gives the Jazz 3 VERY good 3-point shooters. Andrei is a great slasher, and of course the Booze Hound owns the post. Everything has clicked. The other thing the trade did was cure the locker room of the cancer who is Gordan Giricek. Kyle is a J-Slo type of guy, while Gordan was a thorn in his side. I think Jerry has benefited the most from the trade and this has had a domino effect through the players.

The Jazz are not a bad defensive team, but they seem from the outside to be good some nights and bad others. What are they doing right when things work?

The Jazz are not a bad defensive team, however they are not a good defensive team either. AK47 is not having his best year (down on blocks and steals) and he seems to be in love with going for the steal rather than squaring up on his man i.e. Jefferson getting a free lay-up with 1.2 to win the game in New Jersey. Had Andrei stuck with him, he would have settled for a difficult jump shot. Thanks AK.

Boozer is a turntable. I don’t understand why efficient offensive players have a difficult time translating that knowledge into better defensive efforts. Memo is a liability and has “paint phobia”. Ronnie Brewer started the season off as the league leader in steals and his defense has left something to be desired since December. Probably the best on the ball defender we have is Deron Williams. I think his defense is underrated. As long as he can stay in front of the smaller quicker guards, they have a difficult time trying to get through him. His size allows him to fight through a lot of screens and stay in front of his man.

The Jazz have not lost when holding their opponent under 96 points. There offense is there on a nightly basis, it’s the defense that wins the big games for them.

I am excited about tonight’s game. I wish it wasn’t on national TV though because the Jazz generally perform poorly in this situation. Deron will try at least 3 ill advised alley oops in an attempt to make Sportscenters Top 10. The Jazz should prevail at home in a close game. Final Score: Jazz 114, Lakers 108 (Kobe with at least 42).

Last time these two met: The Jazz were without Okur and Boozer, and still whipped the Lakers something fierce. Utah scored 70 points in the first half. It was ugly.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers are going to need one of their better defensive efforts of the season tonight or they may well get run out of the building. Last meeting the Lakers acted like they had never seen a back-cut or dive to the hoop and the result was a lot of lay-ups and dunks for Utah. The Lakers have to be aware of those cuts and take away the easy hoops. If the Lakers play defense closer to what they did in the first half of the Dallas game they have a chance.

That is going to start with Fisher/Farmar stepping up and containing D-Will. I wouldn’t even mind giving Sasha some time there because if he is allowed to run the show without much harassment it will be a long night.

The Lakers bench, particularly Sasha (who will likely draw the Korver assignment for long stretches) need to be aggressive. The Jazz have been getting good bench play and the Lakers need to match that.

The Lakers are going to have to score in bunches tonight, the Jazz are the second best offensive team in the association and they are going to get theirs. One place to attack the Jazz is at Okur, which means a rare offensive night from Turiaf would be a plus. Also, Radman and Odom need to pull AK-47 and Boozer away from the basket. The Jazz are fierce defenders of the paint and pack it in, the Lakers sharpshooters need to be on tonight and shoot over that. When the Lakers do go into the lane they need to draw fouls.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 pm on both KCAL (9) in Los Angeles and TNT nationally. Flip between this and UCLA crushing some poor suckers just happy to be there on CBS.