Fast Break Thoughts After Two Games

Kurt —  October 31, 2008

Seriously, if you are a Lakers fan, it’s pretty hard not to be sky high right now. Two blowout wins to start the season on national television. The team is playing defense. Bynum locked up for four years. Kenny Smith from TNT last night saying, about Nate McMillan’s comment that the Lakers are the present and the Blazers are the future, “No, the Lakers are the present and the Lakers are the future.”

Let’s try to bring ourselves down to earth a little bit. This is just two games, against borderline playoff teams with key injuries. We’re just 2.4% of the way into a very long season. DJ Mbenga has yet to play. The imported beers at Staples are just so expensive. Okay, I’m really reaching now.

So, who are you going to be for Halloween tonight? Why not go as your favorite Laker?

Let’s go through a few hoops-related things in more detail.

• I love the strong-side zone the Lakers stole from the Celtics broke out this season. At some point a team with good ball movement will test this, but that has not come yet. The Lakers are really communicating on defense, which is new. The bottom line is they have made a commitment to defense; they have the “want to.”

Eric Mussleman liked what he saw as well.

They did a great job of keeping the lane compact and limiting the dribble-penetration…. The weakside corner (3 balls) was the only area of the floor the Lakers didn’t have covered at times as they did a great job scrambling and rotating to open men.

That’s not to say all the questions are answered about defense, as Hassan pointed out in the comments:

The past two games we’ve played, the other team’s main offensive threats have been from the perimeter (Blazers- Roy, Fernandez, to some degree Outlaw, and Aldridge is not a traditional PF; Clippers- The beard, Ricky Davis, Mobley). Both teams have had their main big injured, which has made things pretty easy for Gasol and Bynum. Since toughness was said to be a big issue last year, I want to see the Lakers defend some of the tougher post players.

Kwame a. added to that.

They asked Phil yesterday about the whole “soft” label, and how physical Boston is. Phil said the team is neither soft, nor scared of physicality, it’s just a little light in the pants. This is why our speed and length will be so important. What we lack in girth (not physicality) will be made up in speed and length, allowing us to choke off angles and get into passing lanes. Each games a test. I’m not cherry-picking games in October, I just wanna see the team develop good habits.

• The Lakers aren’t the only team playing more zone. I saw it from the Suns last night, from a lot more teams this season in the games I’ve caught. It seems to be a popular way to stop penetration. It will be interesting to see how teams adjust as the season goes on.

• Derek Fisher has fallen in love with the PUJIT.

For those unfamiliar, that is the “pull up jumper in transition.” He’s missing the shot often and the Lakers aren’t getting anything out of all those speedsters running the floor when he does it. Good things happen when he attacks the rim or makes a pass. Or, pull it out and start the offensive set. But stop with the PUJIT. It’s killing the transition game.

• I think we’ll see a lot of games like the Clippers contest the Lakers bench pulls away from a tight first quarter, and doing so with defense and impressive fast breaks.

• Want to improve your vertical leap (so you can really impress the players at Venice Beach)? You can win a Hoop Skills vertical leap trainer, thanks to Ryan and the boys at Hoops Addict (who have to be happy about their Raptors so far). All you have to do is leave your favorite YouTube or Google Video dunk link. Check it out.

• The Lakers were down by a point with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter to the Clippers, and went on an 85-46 run for the rest of the game.

• Watch out for the Rockets. If you can tell anything two games into a season, and you can’t really but its hard not to start drawing lines, they could be the team the Lakers face the stiffest challenge from in the West. That is, if Yao and McGrady are healthy and Artest stays focused and in line.

But they looked good and deep taking apart Dallas last night.

• The new Knickerblogger stat page is up — and look who has the best defensive rating in the league!