Thoughts From the Weekend

Kurt —  October 20, 2008

Two games, two nights, and I think we are learning some things.

Looks like the Lakers have a rotation. At least for now (nothing is ever what it seems with Phil). Fisher, Kobe, Radmanovic, Gasol and Bynum starting with Odom, Farmar and Ariza the first guys off the bench. Preseason wins don’t matter, but the reason the Lakers got two in the last two nights is because of how well those units are playing together. The energy and pace that those three guys bring off the bench (along with Walton and Sasha when healthy) can’t be matched by any bench in the NBA I can think of right now. We could see the Lakers pull away at the end of the first and third quarters from a lot of teams this season.

• Seriously, this was sick!

• Here’s what is really important — that first five is also playing good defense, I think in part due to their length causing difficulties for the opposition. Odom comes in for Pau and they don’t miss a beat. Then with Farmar and Ariza, the defensive pressure steps up, as does the pace, with the second unit.

Also, as they were doing early last year, you can see Lakers guards jumping passing lanes on the perimeter, willing to take risks because they feel like they have a backstop.

• This happens all the time here and on other Lakers sites, and I don’t think it’s fair any more — people say “Vlad and Luke’s oversized contracts….” They both are getting the midlevel. But if Radmanovic is playing like he did this weekend or did at the end of last year — starting, spreading the floor with his threes, working well in the offense and playing decent defense, he is well worth the money he is making. There will be games where Ariza gets more time at the three, especially down the stretch, because of the need for a stopper at the three. But Radmanovic is a good fit in this offense and on this team. I think what he makes about suits the skills (in the crazy NBA economy).

• All that above said, Trevor Ariza hit a couple of nice jumpers, one from the right baseline one a straightaway three against Toronto. If he keeps that up it is going to be hard not to play him a lot.

• Andrew Bynum is starting to find the spaces in the triangle he did last year, diving to the basket when Kobe and now Pau draw a double team. He had a few of his easy baskets underneath that way against the Raptors. If he keeps that up when it matters, he’ll score plenty. Bchamp said the same things in the comments:

Bynum and Gasol looked much better together in tonight’s game. It seemed like anytime the Lakers ran a Kobe/Gasol pick n roll Kobe got doubled and he’d flip the ball over to Pau in the high post area. The natural inclination is for the opposing center to rotate over and cover Pau but of course this leads to a wide open Bynum sitting underneath the rim. I see lots of possibilities here going forward.

• Bynum and Pau also both did a good job of getting down the floor fast and getting deep position before the defense could really set. There are six to 10 points a night to be had that way.

• Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus put together a list of players who should have breakout years (based on a statistical method of analysis). Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza make the list.

• New Lakers blog with some notes after every game over at examiner.com, check it out.

• New News: Brandon Heath has been waived. This was expected, but we hope he lands on his feet somewhere and soon.

Kurt

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36 responses to Thoughts From the Weekend

  1. Oooh 1st. I definitely enjoyed seeing Phil’s units becoming more defined. I couldn’t help but flash back to the Celtics series and get frustrated at having two dynamic players like Trevor and Bynum unable to play. This has got to be the deepest team in the league and, barring injury, should live up to all of the lofty expectation.

    I’m really impressed with Ariza. We didn’t get to see him much last year, but I can’t believe we got him for Brian Cook and Mo Evans. What an amazing deal by Mitch… and completely under the radar. I never heard of him and he could easily be a starting three on a number of teams.

  2. Notes from last night:

    Discipline, discipline, discipline. The Lakers were at their best when their defense was disciplined. When Kobe et al. stayed home and didn’t go chasing the highlight reel for that block or steal, turned the tide of the game. They used their size and athleticism to jump the passing lanes, called out on defensive switches, and pressured the opposing point guards with random traps.

    We have the best bench in the league. Hands down. Always a thrill to watch Jordan and Trevor play together.

    Mihm looked like Chris Mihm of old. Nice hustle, confidence, etc. Still needs to work on defensive positioning.

    Odom had good touch on his pull-up game and felt more comfortable with the 2nd team. He just had a nice swagger and teams will have horrible match-up problems when sending out their second unit.

    Jordan has really worked on his confidence during the off-season. Not hesitating on 3 point shots, taking the ball to the rack, and creating disruptions on defense really made him look like a floor general last night. In fact, he’s had a really good pre-season.

    Lots of positives from last night.

  3. I wasn’t able to watch the games this weekend but looking at the box score I see why people are excited about the bench. I looked at Farmar’s line against Toronto and thought it was Odom’s. Even Luke had a good showing. Maybe the best thing about it is that if a team can counter one unit, theyre likely vulnerable to the other one. And its a lot more likely that teams would be vulnerable to BOTH units than that they can counter each. This should be some pretty bball, hopefully.

  4. I am getting more worried about the seriousness of Sasha’s ankle injury. Any thoughts on how the Lakers fill this void if he is slow to recover? While we have great depth in the front court there is not much in the back court and if Sasha can’t go it may really hurt.

  5. Sasha Machine. Machine no worry. Ankle better in 14 day.

  6. I was at the game last night, good time. Really like the rotations they are using right now. I’ll like the rotations even more when we throw in Sasha.

  7. The Lakers second unit, as was the case last season, has the potential to be really, really scary for opponents. Phil has the option of mixing in those bench guys with a starter or two as match-ups dictate, or putting in five fresh guys at once who seem to complement one another in many ways.

    The tempo that can be set by Farmar and Ariza will be something, especially if Sasha can emerge as a steady scoring threat with the second unit — someone they can really go to when they need a shot created, a la Kobe with the first unit. LO isn’t a good No. 1 option, as we’ve seen. They need one solid scorer to avoid those ruts when the bench can’t get a good luck, then winds up chucking a 3 just to get a shot off. Those games lead to losses, like that ugly home L to the Bobcats last season.

    I hope that they’re able to reduce Kobe’s minutes somewhat this year, not just talk about cutting his time but actually going through with it. Yes, he’s a freak and yes he loves to play. But he no off time over the summer, he’s getting older and a fresh Kobe means a better Lakers team in the playoffs this season, and could perhaps prolong his overall career, as well.

    As long as the Ws come, I wouldn’t mind seeing less of 24 on the floor than we’ve seen in recent years. There’s no better show in the NBA, but the Kobe show hasn’t produced any rings, nor did it come close until the team fell in place around him. He’s got the skills, and now the help, to win it all this year and beyond.

  8. I am absolutely in love with the Farmar, Ariza, Odom second unit. The speed, length, athleticism, skill, chemistry — should overwhelm most second units and provide or increase our lead at the beginning of the 2nd/4th quarters. Add in Sasha and that could be one of the best benches ever. The type that could come in go on a 12-0 run before the other team knows what hit them.

    Feeling much, much better now that the rotations look more clear and roles more defined. The 3 man big rotation (Drew, Gasol, Odom) looked potent last night. I think the watch phrase of this year will be wearing teams down. At some point in most games, our talent and depth will simply wear the other team down.

  9. Not a shock in the least, but it is news, Brandon Heath has been waived.

  10. I couldn’t agree more on the rotations. I think Phil really thinks that he has 9 starters: Fisher, Kobe, RadMan, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Farmar, Sash, and Ariza. Last night he brought in Odom for Gasol at the 6 minute mark and then brought Gasol in for Bynum with Farmar/Ariza replacing Fisher/Radman at the 8 minute mark. Both sets of those 5 players seemed to really play well with eachother with Kobe being the one constant. Once Sasha gets back, I think we’ll see a similar rotation as last year with Sasha coming in for Kobe with 1-2 minutes left in the first quarter and then Kobe coming back in after Phil gives the 2nd unit some burn.

    I also agree with Reed about the 2nd unit. Farmar and Ariza really increase our speed and athleticism on the floor, and since they are usually on the court with Bynum, we see more pressure D on the perimeter and a little bit more (controlled) gambling that leads to steals. Throw in Odom to that mix and you’ve got 2 strong rebounders, 3 ball handlers, and guys that will run the lane and finish. That’s a great mix of players that is really a starting unit all in itself. I really like where we’re going with this team if these roles can be even more defined and the players get comfortable in them.

  11. “When you change the way you look at things, the things thenselves change”

    Also ponder this –

    “Sometimes you just have to make the right decision and sometimes you have to make the decision right.”

  12. I echo the comments of others, I like the lineups we have. I really think that Phil is going to employ more trapping and high-pressure defense this season (a benefit of the deep bench). We really can turn it up on defense and play fast with LO at the 4, either Pau or Drew at the 5 and the explosive trio of Kobe, Trevor and Jordan.

    However, I feel the key to our season rests on continuing to improve the integration of Bynum into the starting lineup. His timing is still off, but we are seeing glimpses of what he and Pau can do. Pau has a great ability to make tight-spaced, accurate interior passes, and this will translate into many many dunks for Drew. Couple that with Fish and Vlad getting open looks and our starting lineup looks nice. Coupled with the bench we can be a strong team.

    Lastly-I am and have been one of the biggest Luke naysayers on FBG, but he was moving better than I all of last season in last nights game. If him and Mihm are healthy and Sasha returns to Machine status the league is in big big trouble.

  13. Odom looks very comfortable with the 2nd unit, I think that has a lot of potential. Odom and Farmer pushing tempo with Trevor on the wing slashing. Farmar drilling 3s, Sasha when he returns to the court…Second unit of jordan, sash, ariza, odom, and mihm..and maybe one of the most talented starting lineups in a while..we cant underestimate the kobe/gasol/bynum dynamic enough. Their combined skill sets and size alone can dominate ball games. Then you’ve got d-fish keeping things tough w/ vlade throwing up some offense – It’s a long, fun season, but I cannot WAIT for the playoffs…

    Kobe is flat out killing..The precision to his game is so pinpoint…And if you haven’t seen Rudy Fernandez lately, he’s doing work up in Portland, the games with the Blazers this year are going to be something rrrreal interesting, between AB & GO, all the young talent battling. Blazers still a couple years away from really competing, but nonetheless, should be fun stuff…..

    Dec 25th, Christmas Day….Lakers/Celtics……….it’s going down

  14. Kevin Ding of the OC Register had an article about Odom learning to accept the new bench role. That’s the whole key. If he really does just accept it, he could thrive in the lessened expectations and everything could work out for everyone.

    9- Heath at least gets to keep an authentic, personalized Lakers Jersey. That’s kind of cool…

  15. Heath’s a nice player for the D-League, or in Europe, but he is not going to stick on an NBA roster, at least as it stands. And certainly not a deep Lakers roster.

  16. What a difference a game makes! The tone has changed so considerably I almost thought I was at another site ;)

    Anyway, all I’m begging for is a season where each and every one of our players get to PLAY.

    I hope increased depth means reduced playtime for our ‘main’ guys and thus statistically decrease the odds of injury…

  17. I didn’t realize Broderick Turner was now working for the LA Times. It seems the rich get richer.

  18. Who is Turner?

  19. http://my.lakers.com/blogs/2008/10/20/lakers-practice-report-10-20/

    Bynum reports that knee had a little swelling last week. No big deal or cause for concern?

  20. 19. He used to be the Lakers beat guy for the Press-Enterprise, now he is one of the two LA Times beat guys (plus the blogging brothers, plus an NBA columnist, plus whatever it is that Plaschke does). He’s good, he was also in Shaq’s camp, dined with him on the road, had a lot of contacts with that posse.

    I think it says a lot about how much it drives traffic and sells papers that the Lakers have all these resources at the Times while other journalists are being cut left and right. It also says a lot about Times ownership.

  21. 21. Interesting. Did he take strong stands against Kobe during the divorce? I’ve always liked Bresnahan, ok with Heisler, dislike Plaschke. Ding is solid. Who are everyone’s favorites?

  22. Peanut Butter Spread October 20, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Anyone notice that in this game, Kobe’s usual white sleeve from last year is gone?

    Reed, I personally really like Kevin Ding’s articles on the Lakers, always insightful and always detailed. He really gives us a glimpse of the Lakers off the court.

  23. 22. Ding is actually my favorite, although Bresnahan is close behind.

  24. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8DJAACJqcs
    In case anyone has been wondering where Farmar picked up his skills over the off-season.

  25. Darius Miles got waived by Boston, potentially saving Portland $18M in salary and cap penalties. If I were a Machiavellian GM for a rival, I’d have to think about signing Miles to a 10 day contract and playing him 1 second each game. If Miles plays 10 games this season Portland’s chances of re-signing one of their many young talents is significantly diminished.

  26. 20) “Bynum reports that knee had a little swelling last week. No big deal or cause for concern?”

    Pretty common occurrence when returning to heavy activity after surgery. Not a big deal unless it continues.

  27. 20) I would think that if there was cause for concern at this point, Bynum and his agent would be a lot more interested in getting the contract signed now.

  28. “The energy and pace that those three guys bring off the bench (along with Walton and Sasha when healthy) can’t be matched by any bench in the NBA I can think of right now.”

    Portland.

  29. 28:

    I don’t know if you’ve been following the contract talk reports, but that’s exactly what’s been going on.

  30. while it is really nice to get excited at the potential Portland has, lets remember they havent done anything yet.

  31. I am glad to see some defense finally being played by our starters and bench in the same game for the a change…Ariza has had the best pre-season by far…I think all of us expected Bynum to impress us in the way that Ariza has done so far and hopefully, in due time, he will do just that. one thing on the side note, our bench lineup could out-play LOTS of starting line up (from the leastern conference)…

  32. 32. The East isn’t as deep as the West, but it is certainly better this season. The scales are starting to balance out again.

  33. 30,
    Based on what I have read, they are talking about a max-level contract, which the Lakers are probably not going to give at this point. If they were concerned about the knee, they would be more willing to accept a lower-level contract, rather than take a chance on further knee problems affecting his value.

  34. Kurt,

    It has improved. The East, however, is very top heavy. The Celtics are pretty much the only team I see as true contenders. The Pistons maybe, the Magic may have a chance if Howard has really upped his game (haven’t been following them in the pre-season), with the Sixers being a possible surprise team. The Cavs and the Raps still have a way to go. Put the Cavs in the West, and he doesn’t necessarily make the playoffs, forget the finals. Also, I think the Cs are really gonna miss Posey and Brown. Their veteran influence on that team is definitely gonna be missed, those guys really knew how to get it done under pressure.

    The East may have improved, but I think they still have a long way to go before they can match-up with LA, NO, Houston, the Spurs, or even the Blazers or the Mavs. Also, I think the Suns, Golden State, and the Nuggets would be among the top seeds were they in the West. The truth is the West’s teams are alot better across the board, excluding the Kings, Grizzlies, Wolves and the Sonics.

  35. 27. Bill Bridges,

    Darius Miles will not be signing any contracts any time soon. Maybe never. I live in New England, so the Celtics are always on, plus I saw them play the Cavs when they played here in Providence, and I actually felt bad for him (as bad as you can feel for a millionaire….I guess). He looked like he had no business being on a professional basketball court. He just has no athleticism anymore. Maybe he needs more rehabilitation? Who knows? But I think Portland has nothing to worry about unless Mark Cuban decides to waste more money, as usual.