Just a few things to read to start off your week (hey, why aren’t you working?).
• Blogger previews for the Atlantic division are now up. That, of course, includes the Celtics, where there are a host of good previews (the team has a lot of good bloggers). I think Jeff of Celtics Blog sums things up well:
Very little went wrong last year, so “weakness” is a relative term. In truth, there are more potential weaknesses than glaring holes. The bench was questioned last year but ended up becoming a significant strength. This year’s younger group faces the same types of questions and has the same kind of opportunity to prove its worth. Specifically a lot of pressure falls on the untested shoulders of Patrick O’Bryant if Kendrick Perkins misses any significant time.
Scribes will point to the team’s age as KG, Pierce, and Ray are all a year older. But Doc has made a point of saying that he’ll try to rest Paul and Ray more this year. So the team may not keep that same breakneck pace that saw them steamroll through the regular season last year. Of course then we start sounding like the Detroit Pistons, wondering if and when the team will be able to “turn it on” for the playoffs. Then again, the Pistons don’t have KG barking (litterally) at his teammates to step it up. Bottom line is that if the veterans can stay healthy and well rested, age shouldn’t catch up with them just yet.
• Attention stat heads, there is a new site set up by Jon Nichols, where he has set up something called the “composite stat.” It is what it sounds like, a blending of a players offensive rating, PER and defensive +/- into one stat. Pretty interesting stuff, Kobe finished 8th in the league by this measure last season, with KG at the top.
Nichols also did a little writing for Lakers Nation, taking a statistical look at how Pau and Bynum should blend together.
What do all these numbers mean? Surprisingly, the Bynum-Gasol combo might work out a lot better than some people think, provided they can make some adjustments. Gasol has a strong enough outside game to compliment Bynum’s more bruising style. In addition, both players are great passers, which should keep the offense running smoothly. Bynum is a great rebounder, which makes up for Gasol’s mediocrity in that area. On defense, Gasol has shown the potential to guard power forwards, but that aspect does remain the biggest question mark of this experiment. Bynum is a great shot blocker, so he should be able to help Gasol out.
I love stats, but I’m not sure it is the best measure to see if two players can adjust their games. I think there is more observable evidence this pairing will work — as has been pointed out by a number of people here, Gasol looked great in the Olympics when paired with his brother, and forced to become the four. Also, all reports out of practice so far have Phil Jackson praising Pau for his play overall and particularly in a recent scrimmage.
• In case you missed this, everyone has been reporting Odom’s salary for this year at $14.1 mil, but it turns out that is not correct. That is his cap number, which includes a trade kicker he got from the Shaq trade but was paid out long ago. He is actually making $11.4 mil.
For some Lakers fans who have oddly decided to make Odom the whipping boy, that is still to high. I think that is closer to his real value — we’re talking about a 14 and 10 guy who can handle the ball outside, play in the paint and was a key part of a team that made the finals. Those don’t grow on trees. If the Lakers biggest problem this year really is how to integrate Odom into the lineup, it’s going to be a very good year.