It’s Good To Be The King

Kurt —  April 14, 2008

It’s hard not to be one of those confident bordering on unbearable Lakers fans today, after two wins in a row against contending teams where the Lakers played formidable defense (well, for two of the four halves, anyway.) Check out this quote from Kobe after the game yesterday that we call all just pray is true:

“I think we’ve found our defensive identity,” Bryant said. “We’re very aggressive. We have a tremendous amount of versatility in wings and bigs who are athletic and long. We can get after guys.”

The Laker roster is made of long guys (save Fisher and Farmar), and that’s a big plus on defense. When they are active the long arms alter shots and cut off passing angles. What’s more, the Lakers coaching staff is starting to use that is very smart ways. From Bill Bridges in the comments:

Did you all catch the interesting defensive scheme the Lakers brought out in the second half? The Spurs try to force the opponent to double team Duncan who then passes it out for open 3’s. The rotation is usually easy for Duncan to spot as it comes from the wing or corner.

In the second half. The Lakers didn’t double him as much. Instead, when the Spur in the corner facing Duncan cleared baseline, the Laker guarding him followed his man past Duncan but then immediately turned back to double him from the blindside. This disrupted Duncan’s usual kick outs because his usual normal targets were still covered yet he was being doubled hard from the baseline. Very smart and effective.

On a separate note, I don’t think enough good things can be said about how Lamar Odom is playing, once again freed up from the pressure and defensive attention of being the number two guy. He was a team-high +26 against the Spurs, crashing the boards, moving without the ball and diving to the baskets at the right times. At some point in the playoffs, a team is going to focus more on stopping Odom, and when it happens Gasol and Fisher will have big days.

Reed echoed those thoughts in the comments:

Odom finally gets it. Since the all-star break: 15.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.4 blocks, and 58% shooting.

The rebounding line would be good for 3rd in the league on the year and the FG% would be 4th. Add in great, versatile defense and you have a sure-fire all star. He is our x-factor. If he continues to play like an all star, we are the team to beat in the West, even without Drew. Some credit for this should go to Gasol, whose arrival sparked Lamar’s transformation (in ways I both do and don’t fully understand).

With a win Tuesday (no gimme, you think the Kings might love to muck up that top seed?) the Lakers finish #1 and likely get the best first round match up available in Denver (although Dallas is certainly a strong possibility). According to the poll recently conducted here, 37% thought Denver was the best choice for us in the first round, Houston was second at 32% and Dallas had 18%. Rather than jinx anything, we’ll save the breakdowns until after the game Tuesday.

Just a few other thoughts:

• Seriously, Kobe’s kids are at the game with “Daddy for MVP” signs? Did Kobe hire Mark Penn to run his campaign?

• Maybe it’s not good for the Lakers playoff seedings, but it brought a smile to my face to see Seattle win most likely their final game in that city, ever, knocking off Dallas.

• Explain to me again how Oklahoma City is a better market for the NBA than Seattle again?

• Dodger Stadium is still an amazing place to watch a baseball game on a clear day. Even if Madux is pitching.

• The Lakers can be a very efficient team shooting from three when they take 20 or fewer a game. Above that and generally seem to be looking for it over better shots, and things start to go south.

• Fisher and Farmar combined to be 10 of 14 from the field. That stat just caught my eye.

Kurt

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93 responses to It’s Good To Be The King

  1. It’s a beautiful thing when they’re clicking like this. LO has been huge. I’m almost surprised now when he doesn’t get a rebound on a miss, though I still cringe when he has the ball on the perimeter in fear he might shoot it. Take to the hole Lamar!

    Anyway, Fish and Farmar can be a great two-headed monster at the point and Sasha has been shooting well enough to carry things when Kobe’s getting a blow. Having Bynum off the bench, hopefully soon, will be a big lift. Him and Turiaf in there together is gonna make it hard to use the paint when Pau and Odom sit. Exciting stuff, can’t wait!

  2. Sorry for the back-to-back post, but I just saw Carmelo Anthony was arrested for DUI late last night. Nuggets in round one might look a little different if he catches a suspension…

  3. I’m no Laker fan, so I can tell you what will trouble you in the playoffs–incorporating Bynum in. I don’t think they can win without him, I don’t think they can win with him right now. It’s going to be strange how that dynamic works, although I think the Western Conference Finals is a decent bet.

  4. This new Odom is perfect because you really can’t scheme to take him away. In many respects, he’s playing a role like Marion — produce at an all star level without demanding the ball or having plays run for you. Just find the holes the stars create and exploit — back/dive cuts, running the break, offensive rebounds, versatile, aggressive defense, etc. He’s never the first or second option on any play; he just finds the gaps, picks his spots, gets his huge left arm on the ball, and produces at an ultra efficient level. Love it.

    Still don’t want him EVER taking critical free throws though.

  5. SA, NO, & PHX are teams I would like to avoid. You can put DAL in there, but we may have to face them anyway at the #1 seed. If the Lakers can’t get up for that on Tuesday, we don’t deserve to go to the WCF. If we finish #1 then we will face only one of them if we win our side of the bracket.

  6. If Bynum comes back in the 2nd round or WCF he will be strictly playing with the 2nd unit, allowing Turiaf to slide over to the PF. Even, getting back into playing shape, I will take Bynum, Farmar, Sasha, Turiaf, Ariza??/Walton/Rad for my 2nd unit against anyone in the NBA.

  7. Lamar Odom’s rebounding in absence of Drew cannot be ignored. What a difference between him in there and when he’s not in terms of rebounding. When LO rebounds well, Kobe has more opportunity to get out in transition, and the team can setup the offense more quickly. Just a thought, with strong penetrators we have, Kobe, LO, Farmar, and even Pau, woudn’t Memphis offense aka dribble-drive motion offense be something that Lakers would run so well, not that I’m unhappy with Triangle w/Pau. I just thought that Lakers roster could be perfect for that Princeton on steroid offense. Either way, it’s good to be Laker fans these days.

  8. I’m glad you brought up the ‘Daddy for MVP’ signs, cute idea and it probably has something to do with re-defining his image but didn’t the signs look just a little too perfect for some kindergarteners to make?
    http://tinyurl.com/4ehu3s

    It was still very cute though

  9. I’m in the camp that does not believe we’ll see Bynum playing again until camp opens next fall. I’d love to see him sooner, provided he’s ready and not risking his long-term health. But I just don’t believe that will happen during the 2008 playoffs.

    The Lakers can win it all it this year regardless, though they shouldn’t be anyone’s favorite. As great as they played in the first half against the Hornets or third quarter vs. San Antonio, they’re still frustratingly inconsistent, as shown as they nearly blew the 30-point lead Friday while morphing back into that crappy “Let’s just chuck three-pointers all night” squad that sucked so badly against the Bobcats last month.

    For my money — and I hate to type this — the Celtics are still the team to beat this year. But the beauty of the Gasol trade was that it set the Lakers up to be great for several more seasons down the line, and if this year’s squad returns largely intact and healthy next year, I firmly expect to see a parade in downtown L.A. in June 2009.

  10. the other Stephen April 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    yeah, i have no idea. oklahoma just doesn’t have the wealth to generate the amount of season ticket holders that seattle does. that’s where they get all their money from anyway. i don’t think that business is very viable.

  11. 3) Avinash,
    I don’t think that Phil will force the issue with bringing Bynum back into the rotation (if he even makes it back this year.) I think him playing 15-20 minutes, mostly with the second unit, will be how they are likely to use him.

    As far as Odom’s performance, the combination of Gasol and a healthy Ariza and Bynum make Odom pretty expendable. Do you think that he is trying to counter that by playing at an All-Star level? Will he work on his outside shooting this summer?

  12. Anyone know when Spike Lee’s movie/documentry of Kobe will be released?

  13. Even in the first few games Odom and Gasol played together, when they didn’t really know each other’s tendencies that well, they had spectacular give-and-gos and drop-off passes. They work together very well, with Odom being good in attacking tight spaces while Gasol’s scoring is often about finding the open space for spot-up shots or baby hooks. So the two have a nice and subtle game of expansion and contraction going offensively, which may be what Reed hinted at in his parantheses.

    Defensively, they fit together quite well, too. They are both very long, can bother shots and are still quick enough to rotate inside. Also, Gasol is a good position rebounder while Odom has the knack for snatching boards in a crowd.

    Agree with Goo on the signs, unless Kobe’s wife put way too much effort into this.

    Also, I hope that the new Sonics owner won’t be let of the hook for the 2 remaining years (I think) of Key Arena payments. How great would that be, the other team owners saying that he can move the team to Oklahoma if he must, but that he still has to pay the bills for two stadiums for those years.

  14. Off topic, but an interesting graph charting the knowledge and homerism of NBA team announcers (via TrueHoop):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/62498538@N00/2413153215/sizes/o/

    I’m surprised Stu Lantz was rated so low on knowledge. And I’m glad someone else sees that Jerry Reynolds of the Kings and Mike Rice of the Blazers are total homers (and Rice not that knowledgeable either). But where’s Atlanta’s Steve Smith?

  15. I agree that LO has improved by quite a bit since Gasol entered the lineup, but isn’t it possible that the jump in his stats has more to do with Bynum being out?

    The defensive rebounds he’s been picking up likely have come from Bynum’s 10 per game, and his uptick in FG% might just mean that he’s been getting the dunks and putbacks that Bynum would have gotten before January.

    I’m not disputing the fact that he’s been playing much better recently–especially on defense, and he’s definitely been more active in making plays for himself and driving to the hoop rather than shooting jumpers, but I don’t think the improvement would be this pronounced if Bynum was there. That said, I think he’s been filling the void quite nicely!

  16. (4) – Reed,
    I always thought there was an interesting contrast between Odom & Marion and their mindsets and roles the last couple years. The Suns always wanted Marion to be a fill-in-the-gaps team guy, but he just wanted to be The Man. And the Lakers wanted Odom to be The Man (next to Kobe), but he just wanted to be a fill-in-the-gaps team guy.

    Now that they’ve both gotten their wish, it’s interesting that Odom is thriving in LA, while Marion is struggling in NBA purgatory in Miami.

  17. 11-Wait for the shake.

    Lakers defense when it shows up can play quite well, when it shows up. I pay close attention to LO’s stats since he was on my fantasy team, and he really picked up after Pau came but to me he became really aggressive after the two losses to Houston and NO he became agressive. I mean he started boarding like crazy and started putting up some numbers. Every announcer will say how LO has the athleticism, the lenghth and skill to be a great player but now he is doing that because he finally became agressive. I may be different than most of you guys I am actually comfortable when LO takes that three or mid range, as long as it is in the flow of the offense. Since Feb he has been making 36% of his threes. Thats not bad, not great but not bad.

    Matt good point about the LO and Marion.

    9-Celtics will not be happy to see the Wizards in the second round.

  18. Mike in the Mountain West April 14, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I do wonder how a starting line-up of Bynum-Gasol-Odom-Bryant-Fisher would fare. It looks good at first glance but would it be a little too inside oriented with Fisher as our only real spot-up shooter? It almost seems like we have too much talent.

  19. Odom is not expendable. The Lakers will not be able to replace what he brings to this team for the money they can resign him for. And I’d say that about Odom pre-All Star break.

  20. 2. The NBA rarely suspends for DUIs, but even if they were to it would not be until next year as it has to work its way through the courts, which takes months.

  21. I worry about Denver. I obviously prefer them over other possibilities (i.e. Phoenix), but they are not sure outs. We handled Denver easily in our 3 meetings, but that was with Bynum and before Gasol. Camby is the exact type of player that gives Pau problems — high energy centers that attack the glass and score on lobs and garbage plays. Think of how Chandler and Dampier have given Pau headaches — tons of rebounds and easy baskets. Gasol is actually better against someone like Duncan or Shaq whose strength lies more in back to the basket scoring, which Pau does a pretty good job of defending. Iverson (a speedy, penetrating guard) and Melo (a dominant SF) are also tailor made to give us problems, especially without Bynum anchoring the help defense. If they are on, Denver could give us serious problems. They are one of the teams that we matched up much better against with Bynum instead of Gasol (whereas I prefer Gasol against Utah or San Antonio). But, Denver has so many mental lapses that I’d feel more comfortable dealing with their issues than others.

  22. Rob L,
    “Odom is not expendable”

    Bynum at C. Gasol at PF. Ariza at SF. Turiaf (assuming he is re-signed) as back-up PF/C. Vlad/Walton as backup SF.

    Odom IS expendable.

  23. #9: Yes, the Lakers have been inconsistent at times this year–usually when they were playing without Pau Gasol and/or Andrew Bynum. Their perimeter defense has been shaky (with the exception of Ariza’s short, healthy stint). But look at the rest of the western conference and tell me who has been more consistent this year?

    The Hornets? Maybe two weeks ago you could say that, but they are sliding at the worst possible time, they have less playoff experience than anybody else and their record is boosted by the fact that they haven’t had to deal with the injury issues which have plagued just about every other team in the west.

    The Spurs? They have been streaky all year. Not to mention the fact that they are the oldest team in the league. Their offense is sputtering and their defense, while still the cream of the conference, is not what it once was.

    The Rockets? They’ve been great for most of the second half of the season, but I would be shocked if they could even get to the conference finals without Yao Ming. Remember, their streak included a lot of sub-.500 teams. They won’t be facing any of those clubs in the playoffs. Instead, they will see one or more quality big men every night.

    The Jazz? Even if you throw out their weak start, they still are only the 4th or 5th best team in the conference.

    I agree that the Celtics are the team to beat, but if the Lakers can work Bynum in for 15 minutes a game by the conference finals, I like their chances. His shot-changing ability alone could be crucial in key possessions. And, as good as the Celts are on defense, they will be hard pressed to deal with L.A.’s length and versatility in a 7-game series. Don’t forget, the best players on the Celtics are all over 30. They may look great in the regular season, but when they are playing their 98th game of the year, they may not be quite as crisp. And they are nowhere near as deep as the Lakers. I can envision a scenario in which the Lakers do to the Celtics what was done to them by the Pistons four years ago: run their tired butts off the court.

  24. 23. I like Ariza, but he does not begin to bring the versatility to the three that Odom does. Ariza cannot board nearly as well, his jump shot is far less reliable (this season Ariza 33% eFG% on jumpers, Odom 40%), he is not much better at driving the lane, he has a worse handle. Ariza is a great defender and in certain matchups could get a lot of time on the floor, but if you replace Odom with him you make the team worse and less versatile.

  25. I am a huge Ariza fan, but the idea that his presence makes Odom expendable is beyond silly. I think Ariza can become a fantastic player, but Odom is already a fantastic player and retains a much, much higher ceiling.

  26. Good points on Denver. I honestly think we’d be better off against Dallas. Odom plays great D against Dirk, they have no answer for Kobe, they don’t have the quick, penetrating guard that gives us trouble. We just seem to have their number the last couple years.

    In the second round I’d like to face either Utah or San Antonio. The Jazz are another team I think we match up well with, and I think that San Antonio is vulnerable and we are capable of beating them. Plus, I think the confidence boost we’d get from beating the defending champs – and a team we’ve struggled against the last couple of years – would be huge.

  27. 24 and 25)
    You are not giving enough consideration to the effect that Bynum coming back will have. That
    1) Takes away some of the necessity for Odom’s rebounding
    2) Takes away from the main strengths of Odom’s offensive game, which is inside (same “space” as Bynum)
    3) Puts Odom at SF, which means perimeter defense, which is not his strong suit but is Ariza’s. That is the weakest area on the team, and with Fisher, Farmar, Walton, and Vlad as the PG and back-up SF, is likely to remain a weakness (if Odom is the starting SF.)

    And the Lakers are very unlikely to be willing to go as far into the luxury tax as will be required to re-sign Bynum and Odom.

  28. Yeah, Melo will be available in the 1st round (and maybe beyond if they somehow manage to score 200 points a night and advance). I read where the blood test won’t be out for two weeks and then a court date will be set. My initial reaction was a bit severe. I hope he doesn’t spend his community service hours learning how to play defense…

  29. I have no idea what Buss will do with the luxury tax, so that’s difficult to use in an argument. On paper, keeping Odom is extremely important.

    1. He is better than Ariza at every skill except guarding quick wings. There are a small handful of teams that have 2 wings such that Kobe and the SF would both have a tough matchup. Even against those teams, Odom has shown himself to be pretty good against scoring SF’s; certainly not significantly worse than Ariza.

    2. Bynum will probably only play 32-35 minutes a game and Gasol 35-38, leaving plenty of time for Odom to play the 4 with one of those two or Turiaf while Gasol/Bynum rest. We need to remember we don’t play our starters 48 minutes a night.

    3. To date, Ariza is a poor shooter. Certainly not any better than Odom (as Kurt notes).

    4. Odom is one of the most versatile players in the league, doing well in any style with limitless combinations of teammates. He allows us to mix and match against different opponents and provides key frontline depth in case Pau or Drew get hurt (as they often do).

    Right now, Ariza is nothing more than a specialty role player. Someone you bring in for 20-25 minutes for energy and defense. Odom is a fringe all star who produces on both ends, inside and out.

    We still need Odom, but I agree that the return of Ariza might make some people expendable. Those people are probably named Luke Walton or Vlad Radmanovic.

  30. #27–good points for the relative positions that lo and ariza would reside w/a bynum/gasol twin towers situation…..BUT with bynum and gasol in at the same time, perimeter defense is not AS huge a concern. the length of bynum and gasol will discourage the initial attack and the left over defender can rotate and you still have to deal w/7ft of length. lo can more than adequately close out to a stationed shooter on the perimeter, where his length is a benefit also. that being said, hopefully lo will recognize the comfort level he has found within the system here since pau came in and maybe he won’t try and demand a number. who knows? maybe he may think he’s worth more than the lakers do and at that point he’s expendable. but until that point is reached, i think the lakers would be stupid not to offer a fair number to lo (less than he’s making now).

  31. Reed,
    “doing well in any style with limitless combinations of teammates. ”
    He hasn’t shown that he can do that with Bynum. I acknowledge that if he continues to play at this level with Bynum and Gasol next season, they very likely will try and keep him, because that level of play would pretty much guarantee a title for the next five years.

    After the acquisition of Gasol, when it was still thought (at least by us fans) that Bynum would be back at the “eight-week” point, I had suggested a three-way rotation of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom between the PF and C positions – each of them would get 32 minutes, and would provide some good matchups against the backups of other teams. SF would be handled by Ariza/Vlad/Walton/Kobe.

    I still think that would be the optimum way to use them; the general consensus, though, was that it was unlikely the coaches would want to do that.

  32. 29. I hope Carmelo doesn’t spend is community service hours teaching basketball defense to the low-income youth of Denver. Those kids deserve better than that.

  33. Playing LO, Pau, and Bynum frontline could be an advantage and a liability at the same time. Surely, quick teams like Golden St. could give us trouble, but we could also pound them inside to death. Still, LO and Gasol’s versatility could make that lineup very potent. LO can be an effective 3 if he focuses on things that he is doing right now, rebounding and moving without the ball. Pau’s versatility as a passer and shooter can allow LO to play effectively. Pau’s skill sets complement those of LO very well, so I don’t see LO playing 3 and Gasol playing 4 would be all that bad. Seriously, right now, there are only 2 or 3 SF’s in the league that I would take over LO. That said, our 3pt shooting will suffer with the BIG lineup, but I’d rather have our starting unit just pound the ball inside to setup our second unit’s 3 pt shooting ability. Basically, the rotation should go like this. Kobe, Fish, LO, Pau, Bynum to start. Vlad sub in for Bynum after 5-6 mins, moving Pau to 5 and LO to 4. Farmar and Turiaf coming in for Fish and Pau.
    Sasha and Luke/Ariza coming in for Kobe and LO with 30 point lead. LOL… Man, Lakers are just too deep next year. How are they going to find minutes for all these guys!!! Reed is right! Luke or Vlad may have to go. When do their contracts run out? I guess we’ll trade their expring contracts for draft picks or key veterans soon.

  34. Odom….my lefty for life. I’ve got friends that belittled me for LO’s first 3 seasons here as I constantly defended him. They called me Odom. I like having the last laugh…

    Odom is not expendable by any means. Ariza is a complimentary player. He’s a specialist (with room to grow, but still). He’s a middle relief guy who gets out lefty’s with the inside heat. If our team was a toolbox, Kobe is the Hammer, Pau is the Screwdriver, Bynum is the Plyers, and Odom is the Leveler. You try to build a house without a leveler….everything rolls to one side; there is no balance. I laugh when people point out Odom’s faults and backhand compliment his virtues. He was *once* the whipping boy…old habbits die hard, I guess.

    I could on and on about Odom, but honestly, this guy is just a basketball player. The guy at the local Y that just *knows* how to play the game. He does everything with “good enough” skill level, and he excells at many things. He is an all-star level glue guy….I mean, how many of those guys even exist?

    One last thing on Odom…I see the point that as a “jack of all trades, master of none” type player, he would be the expendable guy. We can make up his contributions in all areas with various players. Rebounding-Drew, Scoring-Rad or Sasha or Gasol or Bynum, Assists-Farmar or Fish, and etc. And if you could guarantee me that everyone is going to stay healthy and play at that level every night, I might agree. But, that has not been the case for years now, and a guy like Odom is the one guy that contributes across the board in every category and has played extremely well in 2 straight playoffs. We can’t lose this guy. He is not a luxury. He is a determining factor in wins.

  35. I don’t know about you guys, but in the back of my mind, I have a feeling that Denver is the most likely to upset a 1 seed.

  36. The biggest problem with LA is, outside of Bryant and Fisher, none of these guys have won a playoff series together. I can’t see them winning three seven game series in a row in the West. As great as the Lakers are meshing together right now, will they play this way in a Game 7? I don’t think they have that experience under their belt yet.

    Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Utah–all of these teams have won series before. It’s almost certain the Lakers will have to play two (if not three of these teams). You better hope you get New Orleans and Houston in there.

  37. Avinash #36,

    Not to sound harsh, but I tire of the argument that something won’t happen because it hasn’t yet. *Nothing* happens…until it actually does.

    I understand the concept of getting over the hump. Of getting experience and gaining knowledge of how to win from trial and error. From being close, coming up short, and learning what it takes. Those are tried and true paths to actually winning. But in all reality, a hot team, or a peeking team can outplay teams that have more experience. Ask Dallas how that experience of winning a series (and more) together worked out last year when Golden State (a team that had not been to the playoffs in a decade and had no experience winning together) out-coached, out-toughed, and out-classed them in a 7 game series.

    I also think that coaching is key come playoff time. The Lakers have the winningest coach around. The Lakers are no *shoe-in* nor do I think they are the *favorite*. But, they have the talent, will, and coaching to win it all.

  38. No one denies that experience can be a good thing come playoff time. But every team has to win it that first time.

  39. -24 You’re missing my points… I never said the Lakers couldn’t win it this year, nor did I say they were not the most likely team to come out of the West in 2008.

    I am not confident that Bynum will be back this season, and his absence weakens the Lakers on both ends. Not so weak that they’re to be written off, but not so strong as they could be with a frontcourt that includes a healthy Bynum, Gasol and Odom.

    If the Lakers play to their abilities, they are the class of the West and they could beat anyone, including Boston. I’m simply cautioning that this Laker teams has its lapses — see Portland recently, the Bobcats game or the flat home loss to the Kings in March — and a title in 2008 isn’t a given.

  40. Avinash — I agree w/ you on experience. I remember the first Shaq/Kobe title team had a tendency to let inferior teams hang around in the playoffs. They’d get a 2-0, 3-1 lead and let the opponent back in the series before closing them out. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a little of that from these Lakers.

  41. I think how the team performed after that dramatic summer shows how mentally strong this team is. I just hope they can keep it up physically.

  42. Saying Odom is expendable is like saying Pau will be expendable once Bynum comes in. If cost-saving is a factor, I do agree that he is probably the first piece to be cast away, before Bryant and Gasol due to importance, and before everyone else on the team due to cost.

    But if we don’t have to, then why bother? Ariza may be great, but it’s always, always better to have a more versatile player on the court because there’ll always be situations where defense/offense is not set and unexpected mismatches appear. Lamar would have far more opportunities to create such mismatches than Ariza, part because of his size and part because of his skill.

    Also, just like this year, next year may not be free of injury. Redundancy is, if affordable, needed, especially if you have a player that is prone to break his foot and heal slowly.

  43. 1) Miami won it on the 1st time and only Shaq & Payton had finals experience.

    2) The team needs to be looked at as a living organism, rather than a group of separate parts. That’s what makes the Lamar situation so difficult. He brings so much and plugs so many holes, but doesn’t really fit into the 2008/9 team without Phil Jackson being willing to do things differently (32 min each was a great suggestion).

    I think the Lakers keep Lamar next year – they can’t get equivalent value without mortgaging themselves further into the future than next year. That said, it is very possible that the Lakers do not resign him for close to his present salary and the decision will be up to him whether he wants to take less money to be in the championship race every year or make more money. Being who he is, I would not presume to guess what his decision would be.

    What his play is doing this year is making Phil rethink how he manages his rotations next year and building the amount of $ to be offered by other clubs for 2009/10. The Lakers cannot pay Kobe $20M+, Gasol $15M+, Bynum $10+, and then pay Lamar $12-14M. That is close to $60M for 6 players and then there are at least 7 more players to be signed. Let’s be realistic about all this.

  44. With another regular season just about to end, I could just smile with the fact that I’ve been a longtime Lakers fanatic.

    Winning back to back in ’88, Magic retiring, getting Shaq in ’96, losing to the Pistons in ’04 and now having Kobe, Gasol and Bynum (ok, Andrew is not back yet) –it really feels good to live through the highs after living through the lows of the team.

    Spurs, Suns, Mavs,Celtics? Bring them on!!! They’d all be a little side note in the franchise’s colorful history.

    GO LAKERS!!!!

  45. Sorry – 4 players and there would be at least 9 more players that would have to be signed.

  46. Did you guys see this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/62498538@N00/2413153215/sizes/o/

    This would seem to imply that Joel Myers has a lot more nba knowledge that Stu. For the most part I agree with this chart, but that is an insult to Stu, isn’t it?

  47. This is interesting, but kind of makes my head hurt–Yahoo broke down the playoff race with every hypothetical outcome for the last couple matchups with all the tiebreakers:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AuC8wrsjbwTLTyXeaSKNprG8vLYF?slug=ys-playoffscenarios08&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

  48. (34) – pb,
    We won’t be trading the “expiring contracts” of Walton or Radmanovic anytime soon. Vlade’s deal runs through 2011 (if he picks up his player option), and Luke’s through 2013.
    http://hoopshype.com/salaries/la_lakers.htm

    (44) – Craig W,
    I’m expecting the front office to let Lamar go into next season without an extension, see how it works for a whole season with him, Pau & Drew, and then offer him a 3 or 4 year deal in ’09 for around $7-8m per. All indications are that he loves this team, and when guys are close, those relationships and the chance to be on a contender are hard to give up, especially for an unselfish guy like Lamar. If it were his first chance at a big payday after his rookie deal, that would be different. But since he’s had one big contract, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him sacrifice a little to stay with the Lakers.

    As far as the overall payroll, yeah it would be huge, but Buss has said in the past that he’s willing to pay the luxury tax for a title contender. Plus, I’m sure the team factors in all the extra revenues generated by a deep playoff run, and possibly a title or two, when they’re deciding how high the payroll can go. I think they’ll bite the bullet and pay – within reason – to keep the team intact.

  49. I’d love to see how the Celtics would fare if placed in the Western Conference bracket as the #1 seed and facing #8 Dallas, with other teams each moving down a spot.
    They’ll be having such a ridiculously easy road to the playoffs compared to the teams over here in the West.
    I think they deservedly are the favorites this year, but I’d love to see such a talented and focused team play against the likes of San Antonio, New Orleans, and Phoenix rather than Atlanta,
    Washington, and Detroit.

  50. I was wondering if Kobe and Pau can somehow re-negotiate and restructure their contracts (like what the NFL frequently does) so that we have enough cap room to sign Lamar for a value that is less than what he’s being paid now, but big enough to keep him happy. Also, we have Andrew’s extension coming up this summer as well.
    If this is indeed possible, it would go a long way into establishing a winning culture for at least the next 7-8 years and possibly beyond with Andrew as our centerpiece.
    I’m on the side that Lamar puts us closer to the championship and further from it if he’s gone.

  51. I agree that Lamar puts us farther over the championship threshold, but the CBA does not allow players to negotiate their contracts downward. However, Kobe’s contract is also coming up at the end of next year. They could negotiate together – kind of unique, but not particularly illegal.

  52. Sorry, he has an option at the end of next year.

  53. 50- Players can’t do that, per the Bargaining Agreement.

  54. 34-Luke and Vlad probably aren’t going anywhere. After this season, Luke has 5 yrs 25 million and Vlad has 4 years 20 million left. Don’t think they are the most attractive contracts, but I guess it would be easier to move Vlad.

  55. (51) – chocomm,
    The difference is that in the NFL most contracts are not fully guaranteed, whereas in the NBA most (but not all) contracts are fully guaranteed. When you read about a guy signing in the NFL, the story is usually something like, “Player X signed today for 6 years and $48 million, with $20 million in guarantees.”

    What that means is that after the first couple years of a football contract, when the guaranteed portion is up, if the player is struggling the team can just waive him and not have to pay him another dime. There are cap consequences, but it’s not like the NBA where if a team just waives a guy before his contract is finished they still have to pay him every penny remaining on his deal.

    As a result of that, NFL teams have tremendous leverage in forcing older players or guys who are underperforming their contracts to renegotiate. They can basically tell a guy, “We’re either going to renegotiate your deal, or we’re going to waive you. Your choice.” The flip side is that players who outperform their contract can also seek to renegotiate their deal to get more money.

    The other scenario, that you mentioned, is where guys redo their deals to free up cap space. In those cases, they’re actually just converting salary (which counts against the cap this year) into signing bonuses (which can be prorated over the life of the contract). The players don’t actually give up any money in most cases. This only works because of the NFL’s distinction in how salary and bonuses count against the cap. The NBA has no such distinctions.

  56. Utah just beat Houston, so they’re officially out of the running for the number 1 seed. Go Clippers tomorrow against New Orleans!

  57. Grant Hill hurt his groin in the GS/PHO game, not gonna return tonite.

    Also, Artest and Martin sitting out versus Spurs, both may not play against LA

  58. Wow on Golden State- holy crap, they can score.
    101, and they haven’t broken the 9:00 mark of the final quarter.

  59. Kurt — is your e-mail down? I keep getting things bounced back to me. Fire me an e-mail if you see this, champ.

  60. I was rooting for the Warriors. Then they call a charge on Ellis while Nash’s feet were still getting into position. That would have been the tying basket provided Ellis hits the free throw. From there on, it was game over. I find it interesting that Nellie sat out Baron the entire 2nd half. Spurs just barely beat out the Kings so it’s looking like Denver and us in the first round more and more.

  61. after today’s games, here is the likely final standing:
    1. LA Lakers
    2. New Orleans
    3/4. San Antonio/Utah
    5. Houston
    6. Phoenix
    7/8. Dallas/Denver

    Spurs and Jazz might try hard to lose on Wednesday.

  62. With Houston losing, and since we have the tiebreakers over New Orleans and San Antonio, that means we have #1 locked up … I think. Am I missing something?

  63. Okay I’m an idiot. NO has two games left, not one, and could still pass us. Sorry.

  64. 61 – no, they have 2 more games left and we have 1. they could go 57-25 (2-0) and we could end up 56-26 (0-1)

  65. matt.. we can finish no lower than the 2nd seed. the only way we lose the top spot is if we lose to sac and the hornets win their last two games.

    does anyone think the spurs are going to make it out of the first round? they way they’ve looked as of late, i dont see them getting past the suns, they probably wouldn’t have last year without the horry incident. if they jump up to the 2 spot, they’ll have a tough go with the mavs, who beat them 2 years ago. there only shot is to drop to 4th and play the rockets, but im pretty sure the jazz are smart enough to make sure they stay the 4th seed.

    i have a silly question… what seeds match up in the conference semis? who will our opponent be?

  66. Yeah, u’re missing the fact that we need to win tomorrow to guarantee the #1 seed. If we lose tomorrow and NOH win their last two games, then we get at worse the #2 seed.

  67. 15 – Whaaa? I think Stu Lantz is really knowledgeable!! But maybe that’s because 1) I’m not that knowledgeable myself; and 2) He’s always correcting Joel. I dunno. I guess they disagree a lot and I tend to agree with Stu just because … I like him more.

    I watch a lot of Lakers games on other teams’ networks, so off the top of my head I remember Minnesota’s announcers being reaaaally bad. And I really enjoy Clyde Frazier.

  68. The only thing for sure that has changed tonite is that the Warriors are out. Number 8 can only be Denver or Dallas.

    Lakers have not clinched #1 yet. If you haven’t done it yet, please burn your Kings T-shirt and hide the cowbells. Sacramento is coming to town–and you are a Laker fan again–remember?

  69. 60 – Both Spurs and Jazz can’t lose on wednesday because they’re both playing each other. I’d actually like to see Utah beat the Spurs and have Phoenix and Houston win their last game. Then they’ll all be tied with a record of 55-27. Utah would be #3 and Suns #4, Hou #5 and SA #6. Lakers/Phx and Utah/NOH would be an awesome WC semifinals!

  70. Anonymous – if the lakers end up #1, then we play the winners of the #4/#5 series and #2/#7 play the winners of #3/#6.

  71. By the way, Skeets in 61 is right, my email for this site has been down for at least a couple of days. Hopefully it will be fixed soon. If anyone has tried to send an email that hasn’t gotten through, leave a comment and I’ll reach you.

  72. I came with an interesting scenario. Now thats the Lakers are assured of a 1 or 2 seed what if we deliberately lose tomorrow?

    Let’s assume that NO beats the Clippers tomorrow and Denver beats Memphis.

    That means NO gets 1 seed if it beats Dallas. However, because Dallas loses, they lose the tiebreaker to Denver and are relegated to 8-seed thus playing the 1-seed NO in the playoffs.

    If NO loses to Dallas, Dallas gets 7-seed, No gets 2-seed and they still end up playing each other.

    If we want to avoid Dallas, we just have to lose to the Kings tomorrow.

  73. Sorry for consecutive posts. That should have been a “came up with” in the post above.

  74. The Dude Abides April 15, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Awesome…former Sonics owner Howard Schultz is suing current owner Clay Bennett for fraud/bad faith in their ownership transaction. The goal is to keep the team in Seattle.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sonics/2004349361_schultz15.html

  75. Warren Wee Lim April 15, 2008 at 3:24 am

    I think its interesting to talk about Lamar’s situation at this point. I still think his verdict will wait until we know how deep we are getting into the playoffs. At this point, if you ask me, I am giving him a 3-yr 30m extension as early as July 1 of 2008. Salaries placed at 9-10-11 or if its allowed, 8-10-12.

  76. There is a game to play tonight against the Kings that the Lakers can’t afford to blow. I don’t give the Kings much chance but if they make it close it will be because the Lakers fail to stop the high pick and roll.

    The Lakers have gotten very good over the last 2 games at following over the screen on one hand (Fisher and Farmar) and also aggressively showing on the other (Gasol and Odom). The difference in the last two games is that the guards didn’t go under the screen and that the bigs quickly retreated back into the lane after showing. Of course, the big’s effectiveness was enhanced due to the fact that neither West nor Duncan are particularly good at slipping the screen and diving to the hoop on the pick and roll. What I mean is that the retreat and cover of Gasol/Odom still has a way to go to handle Amare.

    The problem facing the Lakers D with the Kings is whether the pick and roll defensive scheme is as effective when translated to stop a left handed point guard. (The Lakers traditionally have been very poor at covering lefties) Basically the entire defense has to be rotated in a mirror-image form. There is a danger that the bigs will be slower to retreat and cover after showing with the right leg forward. When they defend right-handed PGs and show with their left leg forward, Gasol retreats back with his dominant leg. There is a tendency for retreating for bigs to retreat back with the dominant leg. When he shows with his right leg forward to defend Udrih, lets hope he can retreat back leading with his non-dominant leg instead of switching and thus slowing down his retreat.

    Udrih likes to shoot the J coming off the screen so Fisher and Farmar has to fight harder to try to stay with him. Also Miller being out could cause a bigger problem because Spencer Hawes is much more agressive at diving to the hoop whereas Miller is exclusively a pick n pop guy. John Salmons has been a problem in the past. For some reason he gets up to play Kobe and plays him well. Kobe has to concentrate on stopping Salmons instead of ignoring him as he usually does.

    On offensive the MO against the Kings doesn’t change. Pound them with Gasol on the left block and Odom on the right until they start doubling, the rest comes easy.

  77. Warren Wee Lim April 15, 2008 at 7:06 am

    On Lamar Odom…

    Before the break, I must say many of US wanted to ditch the guy out. We often complained he is too expensive for that production and he is not a reliable Robin to Kobe’s batman.

    Well that was not unfounded by all means but only a few of us could actually believe he could transform himself into how valuable he is now. If I am not mistaken, it was Kurt himself that said “we need to accept Lamar for who he is – somebody who is consistently inconsistent.”

    It seems ages ago now and we all love the new Lamar… I honestly think his stature being threatened by Gasol’s arrival has something to do with it, although I would not say that is the end of it. I think part of it is the pressure being off and he can now do the things he does best – facilitate the offense without the scoring part.

    On keeping or trading Lamar…

    I say we keep him. Depending on how this playoffs pan out, I think 30m in 3yrs is a decent extension for him. Not too cheap to insult him but not too pricey for our situation. I still think he is worth 8-9m since he is no 2nd option and he may not even be the 3rd if and when Drew comes back but a million or two worth of “loyalty” bonus is somewhat justified.

    On the salary tax in 2009…

    I think 2008 is out of reach. We are making the bid for the chip for the next 2 years and we will be committed to winning despite the price. I am certain Mitch and Dr. Buss already placed this into the equation in assessing the financial ramifications of the Gasol acquisition.

    2009 is a very interesting year. This is where Drew’s expected extension kicks in and the year Lamar, Trevor, Mihm and even Kobe’s contracts to possibly end. We might see some CBA circus circumvention in the works if the right circumstances happen.

    I would like to place a little intrigue on Kobe’s option that coincides this year. Depending on how the CBA guys would rule out, Kobe CAN actually opt out, negotiate a NEW CONTRACT, take a pay cut for the 1st 3 years of the new one and get all of it back before the last 3 would end. He could still add his usual no-trade clause and other special kickers if needs be.

    It might look like this:
    Gasol 16.4m
    Radman 6.5m
    Fisher 5.1m
    Luke W 4.8m
    Sasha (3.0m)
    Ronny (3.5m)
    Bynum ( 10m)
    =====

    This payroll totals 49.3m.

    Lamar’s extension COULD be 9-10-11,
    Trevor’s extension COULD be 4-5-6,
    Kobe’s NEW contract COULD be:
    15 – 15 – 20 – 20 – 25 – 25 = 120m.

    If this is not illegal, Kobe seemingly takes a pay cut on the 1st 2 years 09 and 10 but takes the cut back in the last 4. Of course I am only speculating but it COULD very well be possible.

  78. Warren Wee Lim April 15, 2008 at 7:34 am

    On the playoff seedings…

    There might be one game we are overlooking here that would determine everything. The NOH-DAL game on the last day of the season will prove to be the biggest of all games out West. GSW is now officially out of the running and Denver is officially in. I think Denver will get the home win against Memphis and it would put pressure on Dallas to decide their own fate – whether to be 7th or 8th.

    In this case, if I were Dallas, I’d choose New Orleans. Duh?! I mean, why would they choose the powerhouse favorites (us) over the upcomers (could be flukes) who they could easily escape the 1st round with? See if they beat NOH on this critical game, it would give them a 2-2 tie from their season head-to-head + the psychological advantage coming into the series.

    This critical game would be staged on their own homefloor and I bet Cuban would pep talk the whole team before it begins. Can’t picture his face to lose in 2 straight 1st-rounders after winning some 127/166 games in the last 2 years.

    Meaning, even if we would lose to Cowbell City (dear God I hope we don’t), we could still keep the #1. But it would also involve the SPurs in a 3-way, which, the Mavs would DEFINITELY want to avoid to face in the 1st round.

    Here goes nothing…

    1st order of business, Lakers over Kings.

  79. 77- Great stuff Bill, I would add that another thing that killed us was their back-cuts, they worked Kobe and Vlad and Fish with them all game, including the winning play for Udrih. I do like that Artest and Martin probably aren’t playing, the Kings have a nice nucleus to go forward with, the West is crazy, the Kings easily would be a top 5 seed in the East.

  80. kwame a.

    You are absolutely right. But my recollection is that only Kevin Martin was beating us w/ the back cuts. Not a problem if he’s not playing as no other player seems to play as well without the ball.

    Ron Artest. Post up on left block, likes to bull his way into the lane. Best force him to his left for a fadeaway. Or double him after he takes a dribble. Very poor at passing out of a double team. On the perimeter likes the ball at the top of the circle. He usually takes the 3 if beyond the 3 point line. If he is within the 3 point line, likes a crossover for a drive to his left. Lamar is always caught out by this. Best give him room and try to force him to his right. Artest cannot hit his J moving to his right. More of the straight ahead and wing 3 shooter than a corner 3 shooter.

    Francisco Garcia. Play him like Peja

    Miki Moore. Let him shoot the 18 footer but not straight away.

    Salmon: play him to drive. Likes a pull up J. In transition stop him early – doesn’t have great handles.

    Who else?.. this team is really thin… I can’t see how the Lakers lose.

  81. Re Lamar.
    I was one of those insisting Lakers would trade Lamar in off-season to get back a First,some financial relief and a decent role player.Now…
    As most have pointed out he has fitted in extremely well as a super do-it-all role player. I imagine the Lakers will ride out his contract next yr w/the team going into season w/Bynum and Gasol and see how it plays out.However,I don’t see him getting a huge offer as Bynum’s rookie contract will soon be up.
    To balance the lineup a bit I wouldn’t be suprised if next yr Lamar becomes the 6th man as has been suggested. Radmanavich starts giving spacing and Lamar is the 3rd big to sub for either Bynum or Gasol,as well as back up the 3. Upon consideration there aren’t as many elite wings in the West so defense is not as key as we might think,so long as there’s somebody on the roster who can defend a hot wing.(My list-McGrady,Carmelo,Roye,Ginobli-who comes off bench- and Ellis. Gay still not there yet,Durant and Minn’s young guns figure to be on bad teams for a couple of yrs. The kid in Sac-gorgot his name-will be very good,but Artest is hindering his developement.)
    As to lux tax,looking at next yrs payroll,unless Mihm opts out and the Lakers simply extend Sasha for the last yr,they’re looking at close to $80mil in payroll. (I assume they will resign Turaif and a couple of players at min to fill out roster.)Even w/a bump in Lux Tax next yr,thats still an extra $7-8mil in tax,plus losing out on rebate. Wish I could spend that kind of money!

  82. the other Stephen April 15, 2008 at 9:53 am

    GO CLIPS TONIGHT.

  83. Lakers would love it if, after beating the Kings

    Dallas beats NO
    SA beats Uth
    Hou beats Clips

    this would set up a path of Denver, Utah (or Houston) and Pho (or SA or NO). Best path possible.

  84. IS THIS POST SEASON SCHEME WORKABLE?

    Why should the play off matchings be dependent on the seedings? The first seed in the conference should have the option to choose who they want to play against. This should be the best for the league…in this case every team will like to finish their regular season with a strong finish…

  85. well at practice the Lakers talked a lot about winning tonight and how focused they were on taking out the Kings to get the number 1 seed, but I’ll be interested to see if they really follow through with it. It sounds a bit like they are trying to talk themselves into believing they haven’t looked past the Kings when in reality they feel as though they already accomplished the 1 seed…

  86. I really hope the Lakers don’t get sloppy tonight. They have a tendancy to play to the level of their competition. Everyone knows the Kings would love to knock them off their perch. I’d like to see 4 quarters of defensive intensity instead of 28 minutes of defensive brilliance and 28 minutes of lackadasical effort. Oh, and less three point shots, please.

    A first round matchup with Denver is ideal, but otherwise, I don’t think it’s going to matter. The West is a crapshoot.

  87. I notice Kurt didn’t mention this so I’ll help out. NEW POST up.

  88. (79) – Warren,
    Your contract idea for Kobe won’t work. If Kobe opts out in ’09, he would be negotiating a new contract. Under CBA rules, the maximum raise in each season is 10.5 % of the salary of the first year of a new contract, which would be $1.575m in your scenario. They can’t give him a $5m raise on a $15m salary.

  89. Thanks for Seattles mention.

    I am asking you to make a request to your owners to at least postpone the relocation vote coming this week.

    Seattle was never give a fair chance from either the former owner Schultz, or from the OKC ownership group.

    by no means am I an expert, but as a Sonics and NBA fan, if you have any questions about our situation, please ask and I will do my best to answer.

    But, be assured, the SONICS fans are alive and trying to do everything to keep our 41 year history and team here. Mistakes have been made along the way, but in the end, its going to be the fans who suffer if the sonics are allowed to leave.

    Please help us spread the word that the SONICS belong in SEATTLE.

    Thanks for your time.

  90. As citizens of the NBA, it falls on the rest of us to help Save the Sonics! I beg you to please post your team/owner’s information with the following. Thanks!

    We Miami Heat fans have put together a proposed plan of action here: http://thesouthfloridafan.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-to-help-seattle-keep-their-sonics.html

    It involves this:

    IMPLORE EVERY NBA TEAM BLOG TO POST THE ADDRESS OF THEIR OWNERS. IN ADDITION, LETTERS SHOULD INCLUDE SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

    “As a form of protest, we vow to boycott any game next season in which the Oklahoma City Sonics play, whether it be in our arena or watching it on television.”

    Spread this around as much as you can. It’s going to take the other teams to prevent this from happening. Let’s save the Sonics!

  91. MVP!

    #1 SEED!

    Lakers!

    Champions!