Thoughts Through Three

Kurt —  October 14, 2008

UPDATE: Sasha Vujacic is not going to be playing much if any before the season starts. The Lakers officially shut him down for the next couple of weeks due to a avulsion fracture, which, Web MD is “ligament or tendon to tear off (avulse) a small piece of a bone to which it is attached.” (Web MD, good for more than just baseball!) Two weeks off would get him playing right about the start of the season, and expect him to work his way back in slowly.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled post, already in progress…..

I wrote a few paragraphs for NBA Fanhuse recently (part of the Pacific Division preview) and said something along these lines: “If your biggest preseason problem is where to fit in a 14 and 10 guy who is 6-10 and can run the floor, play inside and out, you’re in pretty good shape.”

Sometimes we need to remember that. And sometimes we need to remember that A+B does not always equal C.

Lamar Odom came off the bench in the third preseason game. Odom had his best game of the preseason. Ergo….. not so fast, my friend. (Oh crap, I just quoted Lee Corso, I could have my blogger’s license suspended for that. I promise it won’t happen again, and you can be sure I’ll never quote Herbstreet.)

Odom did play his best game of the preseason Sunday night, showing aggression on the boards, really pushing the ball up on the break and just generally looking more comfortable than he did in the first two meaningless games. Bottom line, whether you were in the “start Odom” or “sixth man Odom” camp, you came out of that game with some fuel.

On one hand, Lamar had his best game in one where he came off the bench, plus he and Jordan Farmar showed some chemistry together.

On the other, by far the best play we have seen this preseason came from a lineup of Fish, Kobe, Ariza, Odom and Gasol to start the third (and kept going when Bynum subbed out Gasol midway through the quarter). The play was good because the defense was the best we have seen so far, with aggression on the ball and pretty good closeouts. With those five starters on the floor, the Lakers started to look like the kind of team you should fear.

Of course, right now that is not the starting five. Apparently Phil likes Radmanovic in as a starter, and on offense you can see why. He had seven first quarter points and two assists, stretched the defense and generally looked solid. His defense isn’t as bad as its reputation (although good would not be a word I’d use either). When Bynum and Gasol are on the floor, Radman is a good option because of his sweet shot and the open looks he should get.

When you think about Odom’s versatility and what a match up nightmare he is, there is no doubt he will get key minutes. Which all comes back to, defense and matchups. I trust Phil to find the measure there. And I don’t expect him to have the answer after three preseason games.

Just a few other thoughts, because I’d like to talk about something other than Odom (he’s just the big issue now).

• Happy birthday John Wooden!

• As a fan I’m not that concerned yet about all the Lakers turnovers, it’s preseason. If I were a coach, I’d be talking about it constantly to the team.

• One of the more interesting columns we’ve seen in a while is from former Daily News guy Ross Siler, talking about how to improve the preseason.

Start with location: Spring training has the benefit of being in two places – – Arizona and Florida – – where fans want to vacation. I proposed having the NBA gather all its Western Conference teams in Las Vegas and Eastern Conference teams in Miami for a tournament….

There’s no league that does it, but a preseason tournament could generate interest. It’d be sort of like a big-time D-League showcase and might even give coaches a reason to bring back the starters in the fourth quarter of an exhibition game.

The NBA also should borrow a page from spring training and increase access for fans. Teams should be required to hold practice outside their facility at least once during the preseason. Go to a small gym and let fans get as close as they can to the action…..

I’ve seen firsthand just how people can be drawn to watching these guys whenever they hold shoot around at some college or health club. They’re so big and so athletic that they can’t help but draw a crowd just doing full-court drills.

There also should be no ticket to any NBA preseason game that costs more than $25. I know that’s a hit in Larry Miller’s pocket, but I think it would send a message to fans. Upper deck tickets should be $5 and general admission seating.

Anyone else have some ideas?

to Thoughts Through Three

  1. I always laugh when people over-react to the Lakes losing pre-season games. Anyone who’s read Phil’s books knows he see the pre-season as a laboratory, and he doesn’t even expect his teams to begin to gel until sometime within the first 20 games of the season. He knows it’s a long season…hell, I seem to recall one of the 2000-2002 championship teams losing almost every game in the pre-season before opening really strong.

    I trust in Phil…especially when he’s given a full toolbox to pick and choose from, like we have this season.


  2. We have to also remember about the turnover problem that we haven’t seen Sasha or Luke at all yet in the preseason. Those two play considerable mintues, and play key roles in handling the ball and initiating the offense. My biggest complaint about the play in he preseason games is the lack of execution, which I tend to believe is a big part of the turnover problem. I suspect the return of Luke and Sasha will help both of those problems.

    I think we are worrying too much about Lamar. It’s certainly an issue, but his versatility should make him effective starting or off the bench. His team first attitude should smooth over the ruffled feathers. It’s also a contract year for him, so he should be as motivated as ever.


  3. The Kings game was the first pre-season game I got to watch on tv. One thing I was looking for was Bynum hustling – which he did. I was happy to see he got the message that he needs to play hard in practice/pre-season/real games. Odom will work itself out – like Kurt says, it’s a good problem to have.


  4. All we have to do is compare the Lakers problems with the Kings problems. Nuff said.


  5. New news, Sasha out for 10 to 14 days due to ankle problems. Update at the top of this post.


  6. Does who starts really matter when you have a coach who doesn’t set his minutes or rotations unless your name is Kobe Bean…?

    The beauty of the Triangle is the interchangeable positions and the ability to exploit the opposing team’s offensive weaknesses. We may even see the starting lineup tweak from game to game during the season.

    Phil is a big believer in riding the hot hand (he did this w/ Fish and Farmar last season) and this “problem” of who to put where creates competition for minutes which can only be good for a team as long as everyone is being professional…


  7. Sasha’s injury probably improves Karl’s chances of sticking with the team.

    6) Gatinho,
    “as long as everyone is being professional”
    It also requires players who don’t need consistent amounts of playing time to perform at a high level. I think this might be part of Vlad’s problems.


  8. Well having stocked up on ammo and canned goods, I’ve left my bunker to find that the Lakers medical staff somehow didn’t follow SOP. I thought that twisted ankles are always X-rayed. Apparently not, because X rays would have displayed the avulsion fracture and prevented Sasha from trying to rehab and stress a broken bone.

    Tough kid, anybody doubt how hard he would have been rehabbing to try to make it back?

    It must have been causing him pain to have required an MRI.

    From Malone to Mihm, to Bynum, the Lakers medical staff have not distinguished themselves and this does only reinforces their reputation as career-killers.

    Now back to my bunker to fend off the looters….

    When power is next restored, I might write about a few interesting tings Phil is doing with regard to the defensive scheme. I predict a few minutes next game with this line-up: Bynum, Gasol, Odom, Ariza, Bryant playing a 2 – 3 zone… or at least, he should.


  9. I couldn’t agree more about the lower prices to pre-season games. I am a season ticket holder and I pay full price for both pre-season games. Ridiculous. To prove this I am selling my tickets to first pre-season game next Saturday. The face value is $40 and they are going for around $14. Ridiculous. I don’t ever use them for pre-season and I don’t care about the $26 loss, but obviously the free market is showing us how over-priced they are.

    In regards to the open practice issue, the Lakers do have an open practice, but only for Season ticket holders. It is tomorrow (Wed) and I am going, but I agree it would be nice if there were one for all fans as well.


  10. Doesn’t Kobe have the same type of fracture in his hand? I could’ve swore that Kobe has a “torn ligament that ripped off a piece of the bone”. Am I wrong on that?


  11. Bill, great to see you out of the bunker. Hope you’re well.

    I was thinking today that I really haven’t felt like, outside of the Know Your enemy stuff, that I’ve loved what has made it up on this blog recently. I think that may be as much a sign of the peace within the Laker camp and how small the problems we’re seeing right now are.

    I do have some good stuff for Saturday’s game, though.


  12. Darius – Yeah, that’s the type of injury that Kobe has too. There are differing grades of the fracture, though, and hopefully Machine just needs a little downtime and no surgery.

    Kurt- You’re just itching for the real season to start. There are only so many ways to analyze non-game activities. Not too long now…


  13. Half Court shot contest after warm ups. 🙂


  14. I second Kurt. Good to have you back on the boards, Bill. Come back soon with some of your great insight, please.


  15. why is it that our medical staff always takes forever to find out what exactly is wrong with a player? first the whole Bynum situation, now its sasha’s…why does this happens with our players?


  16. I wonder if Odom will still be wearing a Laker jersey this time next year.


  17. I can remember googling “avulsion fracture” last year (and not liking the sound of it). Despite the name, I think it’s really more of a soft tissue problem than a bone problem.

    But it seems like Sasha can’t have the same kind of problem Kobe had – not being able to use your pinky is different than not being able to use your ankle, and it seems like it would take more than two weeks to heal. But maybe it’s in a place where it can be braced/supported more easily.


  18. 18. The graph of Kobe scoring for the last 4 years and the one comparing the number of 40pt games between Kobe and other big scorers over the same period of time are interesting. It really shows just how phenomenal of a scorer that Kobe really is. Kobe is the most explosive offensive player besides Jordan and Wilt in the history of the NBA.


  19. Mamba24,

    Great point. It happens with every injury, as a fan, I’m tired of it. Why aren’t the people who pay these people tired of it. Every. Single. Time. Either the medical staff is getting more and more incompetent, or the Lakers PR staff is too afraid to completely divulge injuries. I blame the medical staff. Somehow, I just know that 10-14 days for Sasha IS going to turn into 3-4 weeks, then 2-3 months. They either misdiagnose it, treat it incorrectly, or both. I have no faith in the timetables they give us for returns.


  20. It’s a good thing we have a star like Kobe and not some pansy like T-Mac or Vince, because with this medical staff, any injury to them would be career ending.


  21. Kurt,

    An Emmy is in your future.


  22. wondahbap,

    I have been noticing this for a long time and it has to stop. As good as Gary Vitti is suppose to be, why does our players take the longest to find out what is actually wrong with them? I mean, look at PHX staff, when shaq got there, they were suppose to be working on his injuries and he claimed himself that this was the best med. staff he had ever seen (although how much u want to believe Big-Doofus is one’s choice). I, for one, am tired of this happening to us each and every year.


  23. new, link dump post up.

    Remember, by the way, that Bynum (apparently at the suggestion of Jim Buss) went away from the Lakers training staff to get his rehab, and his doctors wanted a slower approach.