There’s Got To Be A Morning After

Kurt —  June 17, 2008

First things first — congratulations to the Celtics and their fans. Boston was the better team in this series, the team that played with more focus and a more veteran mentality. They deserved the title, and I’m happy for Jeff and other Celtics fans I know.

Personally, I’m not that happy today. That was a hard way to lose, and that leads to a lot of frustration — for the fans, the players, the coaches. Everyone. There’s going to be a little venting that goes along with an effortless loss like that in game six of the Finals.

But as that frustration ebbs out we need to remember this season for the fun ride that it was. We started in October thinking we had a second-tier team in the West with an ugly soap opera swirling around it. The goal was to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Then seemingly out of nowhere Andrew Bynum emerged as a force in the paint, the Lakers were getting out and running, they were fun exciting and fresh. And winning. At the end of the 2007 the Lakers were flirting with the best record in basketball and we were all wondering if we really could compete with the best in the West when it mattered. Then Bynum went down, for what we thought would be a couple months. The team reverted to what we expected before the season, a streaky and frustrating .500 team.

Then came two trades, one good and one unfathomable. The first was getting Trevor Ariza, giving the Lakers a real perimeter defender to go with Kobe. Then there was the Pau Gasol theft. And it was a theft, the Lakers gave up a prospect and a pick and a contract for a seven-footer built for the triangle. Suddenly there was amazing energy around the team again and the offense was humming as it never has before. It was a joy to watch.

All of that led to a fantastic playoff run — an impressive sweep of the Nuggets, an hard-fought battle with the improving Jazz then a five-game win against the Spurs that made us feel like we really belonged, like we had really reached the elite.

In the Finals the Lakers ran into an aberration — a team that didn’t need to learn to win as a team (I think because its Big Three were veterans and there were a lot of veterans coming in off the bench). Most teams have to learn the hard way. Jordan’s Bulls lost to Detroit three times in the playoffs before they became a dynasty. The three-pete Lakers lost a lot in the playoffs plenty before they won with that unit. The list goes on and on.

And I think that’s what we ultimately take from this — the Lakers saw first-hand what it takes to win a title on Tuesday night. They saw the commitment needed on defense. They saw the will needed to get the rebounds and the loose balls. They saw the focus of a team that didn’t deviate from who it was or what it wanted to do. They saw a real hunger.

As Lakers fans we hope — we believe — that our team will come back next year with that fire. We know they will come back better with Bynum being the shot blocker and rebounder so needed in this series (and throughout the playoffs). We know they will come back with the best and most passionate player in the game. (Although, you have to wonder who will be first in the mainstream media to start suggesting Kobe wants out. We should start a pool.) We know we have a coach who knows how to make that step to a championship.

And we know we will come back with a core roster good enough to compete for a title and win one if they learned the lessons from this last series. There may be some roster tweaks, but the bottom line is the core of this team is a title contender and not much needs to be done to improve upon this year’s finish. The key for the players coming back having put in the work to take that next step. The hope is that this game six disaster drives them this summer, drives them into the gym and into the workouts.

It’s okay to be frustrated today. But know that tomorrow looks damn good. And next season it is going to be a lot of fun to be a Lakers fan.


Kurt

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216 responses to There’s Got To Be A Morning After

  1. either way if the lakers didnt make any move besides bringing back their own free agents I would be happy

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  2. With the talent the Lakers have and the chemistry they built, you’d think that they would at least give this team the opportunity to come together and have a training camp before they moved Lamar. The opportunities to move Lamar will be there up through the deadline, so if it doesn’t work out, they can move him then. But I don’t think it makes any sense to move him before, when the Lakers on paper have a awesome team. And don’t forget that Lamar played a large role in keeping this team together during the rough points of training camp. He got a chef and made sure all the guys eat together. He might not meet the expectations of fans, but believe me the guy is one of the leaders of that team.

    Here’s the thing with Artest. Yes he’s a great on the ball defender. But he won’t run the offense or play within the offense, he’ll jack up threes that he can’t make, and he’s not going to be the locker room guy that L.O. is. And then there is always the possibility of him getting disinterested during the middle of the season. I honestly think Lakers fans are taking for granted what Lamar brings to the team.

    One last thing, you guys realize that this will be the first summer Lamar will get a chance to work on his game since 2004. He missed the summer of 2005 due to shoulder surgery, missed 2006 due to the death of his son, and missed 2007 due to knee and shoulder injuries. I have a feeling he’s going to be in the gym the entire summer with Jordi, Luke, Sasha, and the rest of the gym rats getting ready to bring it hard next season.

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  3. Salaries used to bother me, when employees doing less than me were getting paid more (I knew this because I was a Payroll programmer). As I learned over the years, there is nothing I could or should do about it at my current company. As a Laker fan, I really could care less who makes what, as long as they keep going to the Finals every year (and hopefully win).

    Kurt, I just received the book you suggested “Basketball on Paper” by Dean Oliver, looks like what the doctor ordered for me about now, Thanks.
    Anyway I’m changing my name to the new two character one’s, there are plenty of lakerfan’s out here (thank goodness huh).

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  4. 195/drrayeye – I usually agree with your ideas, but didn’t you just name the two players (Marion and Kirilenko) who are most like LO in the whole league, *including* the flakiness? Plus, Marion is reported to be a pretty bad guy in the locker room- if he wasn’t happy with Steve Nash passing to him (and the Suns winning), what will it take?

    I think this points out two serious and often overlooked aspects of LO. First, he gets along well with the team (and I think helps them get along with each other). Second, of all the people in his salary cap range, he seems the most likely to be able to thrive without getting a lot of shots. A lot of guys that match up salary-wise (whether available or not) would expect to have the ball in their hands a lot, which just isn’t going to happen.

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  5. About Gasol, I’m not sure the answer is him getting weight. The real problem with Gasol are his legs. Since he gained 25 pounds in his third year with Memphis, he’s been strugling because of them.
    If the Lakers want him in shape for the playoffs next year, they should not play more than 35 min per game. I think getting muscle in the upper body (ergo gaining more weight) would do more harm than anything, what he really must do, is focusing in cardio improvement and in his lower body.
    By the way Kurt, Imeant Gasol about getting the gold medal (guess dreaming is for free, isn’t it)

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  6. I understand many of the reasons to trade Lamar. He is inconsistent, large salary, doesn’t have deep range etc. But I agree that the things he brings to the team will be very hard to replace, mainly his ability to get a rebound and push the ball up the court. That is something that not too many players can do, I can only think of a few players that can do that consistently besides Odom; Marion and Josh Smith (who I think is a supreme talent and will be an amazing player if he works hard at it). But aside from that I think its important to remember that Odom is the Lakers best rebounder. No one knows how Bynum will come back form his injury, it wasn’t serious but it could be a reoccurring problem. Moving Odom makes our front line very thin. So though I think he might be shopped a little unless there is a deal that just can’t be passed up I fully expect to see him as a laker next season.

    Someone up thread asked about the ideal SF for the triangle (I think it was Craig W). A couple of players come to mind for me would be Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince and Odom if he could consistently shoot from 20 ft.

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  7. I don’t see a big summer trade of Odom happening. There are too many variables that need to be tried out on the court and that will take the first half of the year. The main obvious questions are

    – can Pau and Bynum work well together (I say yes, if Pau finds his set shot again, but this has to be tried)

    – will Bynum still be effective post surgery? (Probably, but again we have to see…)

    – will Odom work at the 3? (No idea… can he develop a consistent outside stroke? We have to see.) Will he work well with the twin towers? (we’ll see…)

    – Can Luke recover a decent outside stroke? (I say yes, but can’t quite see him being a starter)

    – Can Vlad get consistent and not space out during games (I say NO, and I would personally advocate moving him to anyone who’ll take him. But he’s just the kind of head case challenge Phil loves.)?

    – Can Ariza develop his outside shot to complement his dunk and D game? (I say yes. and that would make him the perfect 3, once he gets the hang of the offense.)

    – Can the Lakers improve their team D? (Yes.) Who can contribute to that? (Everyone with the right attitude.)

    Two wildcard factors are finances (his contract) and the fact he is the emotional leader of a young team.

    OK, I gave my opinions, and I’m sure you have yours. But no one can really say for sure what the answers are. I think the brain trust is going to say, we keep the pieces in question (unless something unbelievable falls out of the grizzly blue sky of course) and experiment in the first half of the season and figure out these answers, and try to keep in the playoff hunt. We see what’s working and what’s not and we keep our ears open for deals. Also keep in mind that Kobe and Pau will be playing Olympics and that will mess up some of Pau’s development and the team preseason, so only game play will help us sort all this.

    That’s my guess.

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  8. JONESONTHENBA,
    Excellent points on Lamar. The thing to remember is that Lamar has a certain personality and his playing style has been consistent since he played at Rhode Island for Jim Herrick. I think he does lack the lateral movement needed to guard good SFs in the NBA and he also tends to cheat a bit to be in position to rebound. Playing with Kobe, this can be a real killer on defense – unless his man misses the shot and Lamar is there to clean up the ball.

    I think it is instructive to look back at how Phil used Lamar this year. Much to my irritation, Phil consistently left Lamar in the game well into the 2nd qtr – making him the starter playing the greatest number of consecutive minutes at the start of games. Thus we know Lamar plays well with the 2nd unit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Phil spends time with Lamar over the summer and starts him as the 1st man in off the bench – with Farmar – next year. This frees the Lakers up to have a different 3 matched up with Bynum and Gasol – my guess would be this spot would be Ariza’s to lose in training camp.

    Vlade did well at the 4 and I suspect he will be backing up that position next year. I think Sasha and Walton will be pieces to be plugged in where ever needed throughout the game or based on matchups.

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  9. Lamar has some incredibly skills, we all know that, and his uniqueness is what makes him special. His faults, unfortunately, are part of the pitfalls of this team, however. I do think he can be very, very successful next year if we find out how to utilize his skills.

    I don’t think Lamar can play a good 3 in the triangle. He can’t shoot, and he has no confidence in it. With the twin towers (assuming, of course), the lane will be packed as it is. He worked well playing the 4 and playing off of Gasol, to an extent, but he still struggled in the lane, and his tendency to hang out around 18 feet hurt our offensive rebounding, and our floor spacing (since, when he was at the 3 point line, he was useless).

    How do we utilize his skills? Easy, put him as the four in the second unit. If we assume a Fish/Kobe/Ariza/Gasol/Bynum starting lineup, I like the lineup with Farmar/Sasha/VladRad/Odom/Turiaf. They can RUN like nobodies business, VladRad helps with the rebounding and will be able to space the floor. Turiaf can work either the low or high post switching off with Lamar. The key to this lineup? Turiaf has to work on his offensive game A LOT, and be able to make plays if they try to stop our shooters. But Lamar would be able to run well, board, and also do a lot of his slashing to the basket against weaker second units and with 3 shooters on the outside. He and Turiaf could also work the high post and get Farmar or Sasha cutting to the basket. I think thats a really, really strong and quick second unit, and would make the best of Lamar’s skills.

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  10. new post up on the roster. Finally.

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  11. You know what I hate about this offseason? It’s that retooling for the Lakers isn’t really that exciting.

    It’s the drafting at 58 part. I mean, mock drafts usually just last until the first round so we’re stuck with a limited amount of laker related things to talk about. (Come on, please tell me anyone who you think the lakers can get at 58, preferably with links to those players’ profiles)

    i know that this is actually a good thing since it means that the roster (with the players coming back and maturing and all that) is good enough to contend again for the next season, but I’m really Lakers dry right now. haha

    And I guess this is a bit late (with all the thanks coming in the other post), but a big thanks to Kurt, for the site. I’m not really active in posting comments (maybe one or two when I’m really enjoying the discussion) but I’ve been a lurker for a while and I have to say I really enjoyed being here.

    Now give me my laker fix!!!

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  12. Lifetime C’s fan here.

    I have to say, I’m very impressed with most of the posters on this board. I’ve checked out a lot of different Laker boards, and this one definitely has the most informed posters.

    Obviously, I’m ecstatic about the C’s victory. But I know that our window to win another one is very small.

    You Laker fans have a lot to look forward to. Your foundation is still very young…and as long as Kobe is healthy, you have a chance.

    From a talent perspective, I don’t really think the Lakers need to make a lot of moves. Offensively, you guys are very talented. However, I DO think most of the improvement should come on the mental side of things.

    I felt that the Lakers lacked interior toughness and overall tenacity. If there is an offseason move LA could make, doing something like adding a glue guy in James Posey could work wonders. (As a Celtics fan, I’m desperate for Danny Ainge to pay the man his money…but I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of bidders for this man’s services).

    Kobe is already the best player in the world, so I disagree with one of you posters who said that he needs to add 15 lbs of muscle. He isn’t built that way, and it would take away from his game in other ways.

    But he needs a consistently reliable option who can take it to the rack. And while I certainly don’t question Kobe’s desire and intensity, I think adding another leader/glue guy (i.e.-James Posey) would take a huge part of the leadership burden off of him and work wonders for your team.

    I hope to see you guys in the finals next year!

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  13. Kurt,

    For the record, the player I brought into question is not under contract in Sacramento, New Jersey, Indiana. He is not waffling on whether or not to opt out. No, he is a Spanish player, who recently had his contract bought out by an Eastern Conference team in order to play in the Olympics. He is currently not under contract with any NBA team or any other professional club.

    He is a passionate player, who can play both 3 and 4, is able to defend, shoot from deep, and rebound. A player that if he demonstrates that his injuries are behind him, and plays at a high level in the Olympics, I think it would be very fruitful for the Lakers to consider.

    I like that you put tight clamps on trade speculation, and I have no interest taking my readership where such a thing is prevalent. But I was not aware of mentioning this particular player was trade speculation even to begin with.

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  14. People really need to cool it with the Ron Artest speculation. Even suggesting that the Lakers acquire Ron Artest is heresy, and highly inflammatory. Let’s not forget that Ron Artest is crazy. When I say crazy I mean like one ear bite short of Mike Tyson crazy!! Let’s not forget that Ron Artest single handedly destroyed an entire NBA franchise in Indiana. If we flashback to the fall of 2004, the Pacers were a dominant team, coming off a great regular season where they lost to the eventual champion Pistions in the 2004 eastern conference playoffs. Coming into the 04-05 season they had high expectations. Reggie Miller was giddy and thinking that his time had finally come with all the talent they had on that roster. They had a healthy Jermaine Oneal, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and the great Reggie Miller. They were sitting pretty just like the Lakers appear to be right now. Then all of a sudden the “Malice at the Palace” happens, and Indiana becomes a shell of what it could’ve been or used to be. Artest was gone for the season and Stephen Jackson and J.O. were lost for almost half of the rest of the regular season. Of course the Pacers went belly up from there. Make no mistake Ron Artest did that! Ron Artest, again, is crazy! Most of us here are Laker fans! Our team is young! Why are we sounding so desperate??? We didn’t just win 37 games last season. We won 57 games and made the NBA Finals. We’re just getting started people!! We just need to tweak this roster with a quality veteran presence and a spot duty big man and we’re home free. Some people might follow my post by offering mitigating opinions about Artest, such as him growing up and maturing, or likening him to Dennis Rodman during the second running of the bulls. But really do the Lakers need to roll the dice like this?? Do we even want the remote chance that we become the next Indiana Pacers?? The Pacers still haven’t recovered, and there are no signs that they will recover for the next 3-5 years. So really think hard about what it is you’re asking for when you mention Artest who is a problem himself, as the solution to the Lakers problems. Remember…Artest is CRAZY!!!

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  15. Laker Offseason = Addition by Addition. Moving Lamar to the a sixth/swing man role (ala Jamison In Dallas) or having him initiate the ball as a point-forward are great suggestions by Phil and Mitch. Not in a “rumor” way but since Anthony has announced his intentions to be traded if he gets no clear sign from mgmnt that they want him and… Tay Prince was mentioned as one of the pieces in a rejected proposal… Why not go after Tay Prince in trade? I’m assuming that would only happen in a mid-season scenario but he would seem to fill out most of what we need in a SF and… he’s a local.

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  16. what a difference a year makes!

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