Archives For October 2008

Really?! With Kurt, Reed and Darius

Kurt —  October 16, 2008

So you want to trade Lamar Odom? Really? You think it’s obvious and simple? Really? You want to bring in a real three and rely on Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga to play more minutes along the front line? Really?

We’re just a couple of weeks camp and already trade talk is popping up all over the Web. This prompted an email conversation yesterday between a couple of Forum Blue & Gold regulars, which I am going to excerpt here. But I think the bottom line was summed up well by Darius:

If the goal is to get a championship, it won’t come down to who we play at SF, but moreso how we evolve as a team on defense and whether or not we mentally take that next step where we don’t lose 20 point leads in the Finals.

Let me be up front, I can see a scenario where trading Odom is a good idea. But to my mind, the key to that equation will be Odom’s attitude in his role this year — which could be off the bench, which may well be in a less defined role than the past and based more on matchups. Can he adjust to that and be a good team member? Or will he lose focus? I don’t think we can answer that right now.

But if talk of trading Odom were to get serious, there are a lot of factors to considered, because Odom’s versatility covers a lot of potential wholes for the Lakers. Reed explains:

When you look at possible playoff series, Odom gives us critical insurance against foul trouble. When we play against the key playoff contenders, we will often face a PF that could put our bigs in quick foul trouble (Duncan, Boozer, West, Yao, Amare, Garnett). It would be a big relief to know that if Gasol or Drew got two quick ones, Lamar could come right in and we wouldn’t lose much (as opposed to Powell or Mihm). I think this would be very important in any critical series.

Darius echoed that point:

I think that when you have a player like Odom, he’s a one-man contingency plan for so many of our weaknesses. Rebounding, Ball Handling, Passing, PF, SF, he does a lot for us. And he does it playing multiple positions. However (after these pre-season games and what he’s been for us since he came to LA), I feel like his work at SF is going to be severely limited to spot match-ups and that most of his time will be spent playing PF next to either Bynum or Pau at center. Like I said earlier, those backup minutes could easily become starter minutes if one of our bigs goes down. But while I love having contingencies, I don’t think you coach or GM to large contingencies like this one. …

A lot of talk about trading Odom has focused on bringing some of the better (and potentially available, depending on who you ask) small forwards around the league. The problem is, if you swap out Odom straight up for a three, now you rely on Powell, Mbenga and Mihm to play more minutes, key minutes if there are fouls and injuries.

And, you create a worse logjam at the three than there already is: Ariza, Walton, Radmanovic and at times Kobe all play the three, Bring in another and you are cutting minutes and dealing with frustrated players on the bench (guys who would start or play key minutes a lot of other places).

Darius added this nugget about the roster right now:

I actually think Phil would prefer to have a little less talent in players 9-14 if it means having a better 1-8 that had clear, defined roles.

Reed basically put all the pros and cons into a few bullet points about moving Odom:

• While Radman (and potential trade pieces) can play the 4 in a pinch, none can rebound or defend adequately against the versatile post players that are on almost all contending teams.

• Odom provides instant insurance against injury (in the regular season) or foul trouble (in the playoffs) as to Bynum or Pau.

• Odom gives us a tested lineup combination that gives opposing rivals fits (Utah, San Antonio) given his and Pau’s length, speed, and skill sets. No one had an answer for the Fisher, Kobe, Sasha/Radman, Odom, Pau lineup until Boston.

• We don’t currently have a maximally dominant 5 man unit that we can go to against any team. While our depth gives us great flexibility in adapting to various teams, it also is a sign that we don’t have a single lineup devoid of some glaring weakness (whether it is outside shooting b/c of Ariza or Odom, defense in Radman, or size/defense in Sasha). An upgrade for the right SF would solve this problem.

• Odom was an absolute beast after the Pau trade, shooting 59%, playing incredible team defense, controlling the boards, and giving slow opposing bigs fits.

• Odom does not have the ability to be effective on the perimeter so long as Pau and Bynum are clogging the lane. He cannot play SF next to them in key playoff series.

Which is why, as I said before, I think it all comes back to Odom’s mental state. If he is happy in whatever his new role turns out to be, he is a big asset. If he is a distraction, he may have to go but getting something for him is not that easy. Remember, soon Andrew Bynum is about to get a big deal, and the Lakers likely want to keep Ariza and Farmar’s new deal is just a couple years away. And Kobe could opt out and want to get a new max deal. That’s a lot of money. Odom’s contract comes off the books at the end of this year, and he would resign for less. (How much less, that is a good question.)

I’ll give Darius the final word:

But if the season starts and Odom is playing well in whatever role that he has for us, then do we still want to make a move? (I mean, all these issues would still be there, just lurking in the background and waiting to resurface right at the wrong time). And that’s where the gray area is. We all like LO, we all appreciate what he provides. He’s NOT easily replaceable and that’s why we’ll always struggle to actually trade him.

The Lakers are slogging through long practices in a long preseason. To give you some interesting reading options, Bloggers from around the NBA are previewing their teams, and recently it was the guys in the Southwest Division (look for my formal Laker preview close to the end of the month).

Dallas Mavericks
Mavs Moneyball

Houston Rockets
The Dream Shake

Memphis Grizzlies
3 Shades of Blue

New Orleans Hornets
At the Hive
Hornets Hype
Hornets247.com

San Antonio Spurs
48 Minutes of Hell

Also see links to all the previews at CelticsBlog.com

Here are a couple other things worth checking out:

• Tom Ziller at Fanhouse ranks Kobe as the third best player in the NBA

One of the greatest crimes against Kobe’s legacy is that his otherworldly scoring ability isn’t sufficiently credited. Eighty-one points gets headlines, and a streak of 40-point nights the same. But for reasons unknown, Kobe’s singular ability to explode for massive scoring games carries a heavy discount in our consciousness. We credit Kobe for his all-around game, or his steady consistency, or his heart, or his passion, or his clutch ability, or his touch from unfathomable ranges. But no one ever makes the case for Kobe as simply the most fantastic scorer of our time. It’s really that simple.

• Roland Lazenby talks about Jerry Krause and his role in the Bulls dynasty (it was more than just breaking it up).

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?

This is the latest in a series at FB&G that will run through the start of the season, focusing on some of the top teams in the West and maybe a couple from the East.  In this installment we’ll touch on one of our biggest rivals over the past decade, the San Antonio Spurs.  (Cue the Deathstar music) ~Darius

Last Season Record:  56-26 (tied for 2nd best record in the conference with the Hornets, 3rd seed in the playoffs due to tiebreaker)

Last Playoffs:  Lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in 5 games

Offensive Rating:  107.2 (15th in the NBA)

Defensive Rating:  101.8 (3rd in the NBA)

As Reed pointed out in his epic “Know Your Enemy”: The Phoenix Suns post, the San Antonio Spurs are our most traditional rival in the last decade.  They have the combination of Coach, GM, and players that have posed the biggest challenge to us since Phil Jackson first started (not) pacing (and really, just mostly sitting on) the sidelines and leading the Shaq/Kobe teams to post-season glory.  They are a model franchise in the NBA, with 4 Championship rings in the Popovich/Duncan Era and contiue to make trips deep into the playoffs every spring.  If there is one team (besides the Lakers) that will be remembered from the immediate post Jordan period of the NBA, it would be the San Antonio Spurs.

Last season was the typical effort from the Spurs.  They battled their way to over 50 wins for the ninth(!) consecutive season and advanced deep into the post-season.  And, just as in every other one of those stellar campaigns, it all started with Tim Duncan.  Duncan continues to be the catalyst for the Spurs, and even though some have argued that he’s lost a step, he’s still one of the elite players in this league, combining fundamental play with exceptional basketball IQ to do what is needed to help lead his team to victories.  His tremendous defensive instincts (both in one on one play and in the team structure) powered one of the NBA’s best defenses and helped smother opponents to the tune of 90.6 pts. allowed per game and also placed him on the All-Defensive (2nd) team, a feat he’s accomplished every season that he’s been a pro. 

But we all know that Duncan is not alone.  He’s flanked by two of the premier players at their respective positions in PG Tony Parker and SG Manu Ginobili.  Parker continues to grow as a player and his game is now considered the prototype for an NBA PG.  Lightning fast off the dribble and a one man fast break, Parker uses his speed and handle to blow by defenders, get in the lane, and finish amongst the trees.  He makes his living off the screen and roll with Duncan, where he’s gained enough confidence in his jumper to be a threat when defenders go under the screen, and can turn the corner like the roadrunner and dash into the lane, setting up himself for the easy two or dishing to a teammate when defenders try to chase him over the top.  He shot 49.5% on the season (his lowest in 2 seasons shooting 52% and 54.8% the previous two), which is amazing considering his size and the fact that he is not a natural jumpshooter (but, as I stated before is steady enough).  Teaming with Parker in the backcourt is Ginobili, one of the best wing players in the game today.  Manu is a fearless competitor with one of the most unique games in the league.  He brings the soccer pitch to the hardwood every night (both in how he changes direction and embellishes to earn the whistle) and shows a creativity that is a pleasure to watch every single night.  Just as dangerous off of the bounce as he is shooting the jumper, he uses his craftiness and shifty left hand to create angles that other players just don’t see and can finish with authority at the rim or with finesse around bigger defenders.  The guy has a complete game, and is one of my favorite guys in the league.

But as a team, last season would not be the Spurs’ year.  Coming into the season as the defending champs (which is already a strike against them, considering they’ve never repeated as champs in three previous tries), the Spurs had a tough hill to climb as injuries to key players and improvements from other teams made their quest to repeat an extremely difficult task.  In the playoffs they easily dispatched of the Phoenix Suns in the first round, but were then pushed to the limit by the upstart Hornets (where only experience and some Game 7 moxie helped them pull out the victory), and ultimately fell to our team in a series that many thought would go longer than the 5 games that it actually took.  And although the Spurs were clearly hampered by an obviously not 100% Ginobili in their loss to the Lakers, I think that they would have struggled to beat us even if Manu was healthy considering Kobe’s ability to score at will with his jumpshot and how the Spurs didn’t have the bench to play with our 2nd unit.  So, as in seasons past, the Spurs look to retool on the fly and compete in a tough divion, and an even tougher conference, hoping for another chance to win a title.

This upcoming season will be an interesting one for the Spurs.  Over the past few seasons, they watched their role players get old and have not been able to find young players capable of stepping in to replace the production that their steady veterans have provided.  But this year, they will not have a choice and will need some of their young players to make strong contributions.  Gone are Robert Horry and Brent Barry.  And while Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas return, they are now just spot players and should not be counted on for major contributions, even if they are feeling younger by practicing some new training techniques.  So the Spurs will be looking for solid minutes from younger players that are unproven in this league.  Guys like Ian Mahinmi, their 2005 first round pick out of France who’s shown very good improvement over the past year in the D-league and has flashed good athleticism that could help boost the Spurs frontcourt.  The Spurs understand that Mahinmi is still raw, but he’s got talent and they’ll be looking for his size, length, and the bounce in his step to add a dimension to their rotation.  They’ll also be looking to Salim Stoudamire, the former Hawk whose long distance jumper and ability to handle to ball (some) will hopefully replace some of what Brent Barry has provided recently.  Besides them, rookie guard George Hill from IUPUI will get some run and try to help bolster their PG rotation after they traded away Beno Udrih early last season (if Hill’s name sounds familiar, it should.  He’s the player that the Lakers brass was supposedly very high on in this past draft, hoping to snag him with our 2nd round pick, instead picking up Joe Crawford).  However the one young player that the Spurs were hoping they could rely on will not be available to them this next season.  Tiago Splitter is the Brazillian big man with first round talent whose rights are owned by San Antonio.  He’s played very well in Europe over the past two seasons and the Spurs were hoping to bring him over this next season to have him bolster  their F/C rotation.  Splitter’s bruising style on offense and defense combined with his hustle and energy would be valuable to any NBA team, but match what the Spurs need to help Duncan almost exactly.  But Splitter decided to stay in Europe instead and signed a contract to remain with Tau Ceramica of the Spanish League.  Splitter’s decision was doubly hurtful for the Spurs as many think it was their reliance on a future this upcoming season with Splitter that swayed them to trade Luis Scola to the Rockets before last season.

Can the Spurs make another run?  Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili remain.  And while Ginobili is still on the mend from surgery, the team (and even more importantly the head coach) has a positive perspective as he can now, finally, heal from the injuries that plauged him during the playoffs and the Olympics.  Injuries that sapped him of his trademark explosiveness and ability to play to his full ability.  And even though some of the Spurs players are getting older, they are still contributors and continue to fill roles that help win games.  Bruce Bowen, though not the all world defender he once was, is still a major irritant to wing scorers and can still hit that corner 3 pointer.  Jacque Vaughn is still a decent back up PG that has refined his mid range jumper and avoids mistakes.  Fabricio Oberto is still a quality big man that works well in tandem with Duncan, hustles on defense and the glass, and brings a craftyness and savvy that few big men operate with.  And Ime Udoka is becoming the new Bowen…making timely jumpers and providing perimeter defense, putting a strong body on the leagues top scorers and playing within the Spurs team defensive concepts.  There’s also new addition Roger Mason (from the Wizzards) who is another wing player that can hit the 3 pointer and play a good enough all around game to crack the rotation, helping to replace the departed Brent Barry and be a contingency for a declining Michael Finley. 

In the end, the Spurs are still a western power.  Especially when they have 3 all-star players and a head coach that I’d take over every other coach in the NBA not named Phil Jackson.  Can they combine new pieces with their veteran core to make another run?  I’m not sure (I wouldn’t bet against it, though).  But I do know that, when healthy, they’re as tough an out as any team in the league.  Ultimately, I see the Spurs competing hard for their division title with the Hornets and the improved Rockets and still in contention for a top 4 seed.  If they can survive the first part of the season when Ginobili is out and have Duncan and Parker stay healthy, they’ll be in the mix.  Their time is not over yet, and though there are other teams that are improved and will be strong as well, I see our longtime rival being right there this season…again.

-Darius

After all the time Kobe has spent playing basketball in Vegas the last couple of summers with Team USA, will that give him a home court advantage tonight?

Whatever Kobe does, what I think we’re all looking for is growth, improvement, signs of thing gelling together. As this is the third game for the Lakers, I think we have an idea of the three things we’re hoping to see:

1) Improved defense, particularly transition defense. Also, just better recognition and rotation in half court defensive sets.

2) Lamar Odom, does he start to find his way in some role in the offense, particularly when Gasol and Bynum are on the floor. And, in this same vein, does Trevor Ariza continue to make a case to be a starter with his hustle. (That said, at some point he needs to hit those outside shots he’s been getting.)

3) How do Bynum and Gasol look together? There were signs of potential last game, but they became frustrated ones. I think a play broken down by bchamp in the comments summed up what happened well.

In the 1st quarter the Lakers got into the corner series of the triangle where Kobe had the ball in the right corner and Bynum stepped over from the block to set a high side screen. As Bynum rolled along the baseline his defender switched over to double Kobe, who then found Gasol flashing to the high post. With the rotated defender trying to pick which poison he wanted to defend Gasol passed to a wide open Bynum underneath the rim. Unfortunately, it was a bad pass and ended up in a turnover but the right idea nonetheless.

As for the Kings, Tom Ziller from Sactown Royalty (and everywhere else) said that the mantra this preseason for the Kings is ball movement (which is why coach Reggie Theus hinted about the triangle, although he has backed off that statement). The Kings offense had little movement the last couple years, and having Artest breaking out of called plays all the time wasn’t helping. Ziller said the ball movement has been spotty so far, we’ll see how it goes tonight.

And while preseason wins are meaningless, I’d still like to see one.

Know Your Enemy: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  October 10, 2008

Last Year Record: 66-16
Last Year Playoffs: Won NBA Championship
Offensive Rating: 110.2 (ninth in league)
Defensive Rating: 98.9 (first in league)

The rivalry with the Celtics is back. All the way back. I grew up despising all things Celtics (you had to respect Bird/McHale/Parish, but you didn’t have to like them, and I’ve always just wanted to punch Danny Ainge). Maybe that faded a little starting in the late 90s, but it is back with a vengeance now. I want to see the Celtics crushed.

With that out of the way, let’s be honest — they were the best team in the NBA last year. They won 66 games in the regular season and brought an intensity to the finals — particularly on the defensive end — that the Lakers couldn’t match. The Celtics defense was impressive, both in the team’s regular season meetings and the finals. They were aggressive on the ball, overloaded the strong side at times and were lightning quick on rotations. The help was always there. Opposing teams were forced to take 70% of their shots as jump shots, and they hit just 39.6% (eFG%) of them.

They offense was not spectacular, but it was good. Pierce and KG’s games blended well, Ray Allen spread the floor and the turnovers the Celtics defense created led to some easy baskets every game.

The Celtics went into last season with questions about Rondo and Perkins, but both showed that they could be solid role players around the big three of KG, Pierce and Jesus Shuttleworth. This season nobody questions the starting five of the Celtics, in fact in the case of Rondo I expect him to be better, the question is off the bench.

They lost James Posey. Tony Allen will apparently get more time, but he is no Posey. Darius Miles is, um, let’s say in need of a redemption I don’t expect him to find. Rondo has developed into a solid PG (and could take a step forward if he can improve on a poor 42.2% eFG% on jump shots) but behind him is Eddie House, who can shoot but is not a great ball handler or distributor. I happen to like Leon Powe, but for the Celtics to get back to where they want to be he needs to step forward. Big Baby would also need to step forward.

Health is a concern for every team, but with their three core players being older and Perkins coming in off shoulder surgery, the lack of depth could be a real issue around Faneuil Hall. The Celtics need to be firing on all cylinders to repeat.

To beat the Celtics the Lakers (or any team) will need to create turnovers of their own — the Celtics turned the ball over on 16.6% of their possessions last year (only the Kings turned it over more) but they made that mistake less often in the Finals. You can get Rondo (and particularly House and Allen off the bench) to turn the ball over, and that can lead to easy baskets. Pressure and pace are not really Boston’s friends.

You also have to not foul — easier said than done with KG and PP on the floor. Only two other teams in the league got to the free throw line on as high a percentage of their possessions as the Celtics. The Celtics were very good at tough defending without fouling, other teams need to match that.

Enough of my thoughts. Time for some insider perspective from Jeff, creator of the brilliant Celtics Blog:

The loss of Posey has gotten a lot of attention, how serious is it? Can one of the your pickups fill that role?

Oh it is serious alright. I’m tired of hearing about it, but that doesn’t make it go away. The bottom line is that the Big 3 and team defense were what won us the title last year, but James Posey did help, a lot. He didn’t have lights-out stats, but somehow whenever we needed him, he was always stepping up with a huge 3 pointer or taking a charge or making a key stop. One player doesn’t fill those shoes. It takes the whole bench stepping up and doing a little more. We need Tony Allen to give us wing defense. We need Eddie House to give us more 3 point daggers. We need Leon Powe to take charges. We need the rookies to give some old legs some rest. The great thing about Posey was he could do all that himself. Now it just has to be a team effort.

Are their concerns that this team could lose its incredible intensity, particularly on the defensive end? Or will KG just not allow that?

Good question and one I’ve been pondering lately. My first reaction is to say “no.” I mean, have you ever looked at KG’s face when he’s on the floor? I can’t imagine looking at him in person and not running through a wall when he said “go.” However, the only thing that worries me is that every person is wired differently. Some guys are motivated with a stick and some with a carrot. This is where Doc really has to step up his motivational game (so to speak). Last year, “Ubuntu” was the rallying cry that everyone bought into. That was kind of a gimmick, but it worked because the Big 3 bought in hook, line, and sinker. I have a feeling that the team will buy in to the repeat talk because it sure seems like the Big 3 are in again. They have to be thinking about their legacy at this point. They’ve reached the top of the ladder compared to the current generation. Now they’d like to go down as one of the all time teams.

The Celts offense certainly wasn’t bad last year (ninth in the league in efficiency), but what can happen to improve that?

Just playing another year together will help everyone. Wait till Rajon Rondo starts doing what he can do on a more consistent basis. Ray had some lingering ankle issues last year. If fully healed, he could be even better. Tony Allen can’t shoot like Posey, but he’s a better slasher. There’s room for growth on offense, but it all starts from the defense.

What will it take for this team to repeat as champions?

A lot has to happen. Doc has to get them to buy into the legacy/history thing. Young players need to step up. Veterans need to stay healthy. They need to be good and lucky and then good again. It is really hard winning it once, and really, really hard winning it again. Actually, you might be a better person to ask since you watched your team do it more recently than mine. What did your team do to make it happen again?

I think Jeff hit on a couple big keys — health and some luck matter in repeating. But let’s be clear, when it matters (like on Christmas Day) the Celtics are going to be intense and focused. The other day on NBA TV they were showing a Celtics scrimmage, a routine part of preseason camp. And KG was swatting away his teammates hands while trying to get position in the post, intimidating anyone who would drive the lane and fighting for boards like it was the Finals again. In a meaningless scrimmage. KG is not going to let the Celtics lose their intensity.

And with that intensity, and keeping their health, the Celtics will not be an easy out for anyone.

Just a few things to look for as many of us bounce back and forth between the Dodgers and the Lakers tonight.

• Will we get to see Gasol and Bynum on the court at the same time? I hope so. We need to at some point.

• Lamar Odom. One preseason game is less than meaningless, but what we are looking for are patterns in the preseason. And the problem with Odom’s struggles the other night in a pseudo-point guard role is that there already is a pattern. Reed reminded us of that in the comments:

I am bewildered as to why the coaching staff is trying again with the failed “initiator” experiment. What positives does he bring to that role? How does that fit with his strengths? On offense, Odom has been at his best when using his speed to attack 4’s off the dribble, get out in transition, and cut to the basket when Kobe, Pau get too much attention. In this role, he averaged 16 points on 59% shooting after the all-star break last year. Before the break, when he was more perimeter oriented, he averaged 13 on 48% shooting. His length, speed, and efficiency were key reasons we blitzed through the west last year.

Odom brings very particular strengths and weaknesses to the table, meaning he can be either very, very effective, or completely forgotten. I just don’t see how using him in a PG/initiator role does anything other than lead to the latter.

Check out the discussion that follows in the comments — it shows there are no easy answers. You can find plenty of examples of just how good Odom can be, but all of those come at the four. That’s a crowded spot unless Odom wants to come off the bench. Some commenters here, and Kevin Ding at the OC Register, suggest the Odom-at-the-point experiment was doomed to fail, but Phil knows this and thinks it is the best way to get LO to accept a role off the bench. And his strengths in the post and pushing the pace could be well suited off the bench, even if Odom is not a classic light it up off the bench scorer. But getting him to embrace that lesser role in a contract year could be a challenge.

Tonight, we’ll see if a more focused Odom can show us more in the initiator role, or if it just fuels more discussion of what the next step is for him.

• Can Lowe keep the ball down and in that sandbox they call a ballpark in Philly?

• Defense, I want to see better defense. (You can apply this to the Lakers or Dodgers.)

• Lakers season previews are going up everywhere, including at SI.com.

• If you haven’t seen and read it yet, Sports Guy Bill Simmon’s piece on Elgin Baylor the player is a must. You can’t forget he helped change the game and was maybe the best three ever to lace it up.

Did We Learn Much?

Kurt —  October 8, 2008

That looked and felt like an exhibition game. Guys getting tried out at new positions (Ronnie Brewer at the four?), turnovers everywhere, sloppy defense. This whole game was played at a preseason pace with preseason energy and preseason lineups, so there is only so much you can take away from it. But here are my notes from during the game.

• Get well Phil. And seriously, you don’t need to go to Fresno Thursday. Nobody does. Stay home and rest.

• Bynum not starting, instead we get Fish, Ariza, Kobe, Odom and Gasol. Drew, you getting the message that the coaches are sending? They said it to the media then sat you at the start here. Hustle in practice matters.

• First offensive set the Lakers have Kobe post up on the left low block, and when the double comes he kicks to Pau 15 feet out on the opposite baseline. Open look and good. I liked everything about that (well, except for a risky entry pass from Ariza) and hope to see more of Kobe on the block and Pau drilling midrange jumpers.

• In the limited time he played (which is good, rest the man) Gasol showed a lot more polish and comfort with the face up game than he did last year. After several years of being forced to play back-to-the-basket he is playing like a man unshackled. And loving it.

• Bynum’s second offensive touch was a catch-and-shoot at the free throw line off a pass from Odom, and he nailed it. Just hitting that 15 footer occasionally will be a big boost for Bynum on offense.

• I loved that when Bynum entered the game they played the theme to “Welcome Back Kotter” in the arena.

• Bynum ran the floor well, getting down early on missed shots and got a couple of baskets because he got good position before his opposite number could stop him (including a dunk off a nifty pass from Fisher while sitting down). Also, as Bchamp said in the comments, he just looked confident on offense, including on a dribble drive dunk from the elbow where he got Okur mixed and drove past him. However, he was pretty average on defense.

• One thing the Lakers are doing on defense was overloading the strong side (where the ball was) and zoning off on the back side. They did that last year, hopefully they feel more comfortable doing it as the season wears on and the assignments and recognition become crisper.

• The Jazz shot just 37% in the first half, and I think that had a lot to do with the Lakers length, particularly inside. That is something we could see a lot of this year, the Lakers are a long team.

• Ariza got burned a couple times early trying to defend the athletic CJ Miles on the wing, and there was little rotation or help behind him in the paint. When Bynum came in, there was little change in that. Rotations and help were spotty all night. To be expected in the first game but the coaches had plenty to chew players on.

• Ariza looked good moving without the ball on offense and he just has a good basketball IQ and good anticipation on both ends of the floor. He’s one of those players that just seems to be constantly finding the open space.

• Hey young readers, do you ever go out for a night of drinking with friends then get home and drunk email, sending off missives to your ex you regret the next morning? Well, Gmail now has the answer.

• The pace of the game picked up when the subs got in from both teams. The starters from both sides did a pretty good job of transition defense, particularly in the first half.

• Welcome back Chris Mihm, your first assignment is to cover AK-47, who was getting the ball out on the perimeter with room to drive. That is a tough cover for Mihm in the best of times, and he is going to be in trouble with it unless they gave him a bionic leg during all those surgeries. Nope, apparently not.

• Josh Powell got that same assignment a few minutes later and showed some tenacity taking the big Russian out of his game some. Powell also showed a nice little 15 footer. He set a couple very solid picks on the perimeter. I think we are going to love what he brings, if the Lakers keep him in the 15-minute a night range.

• It felt like the season when with 9 minutes and change in the third quarter — Kobe got the ball out near the top of the key and went jab step, jab step, head fake then up with the three. Missed it, but it looked and felt like the regular season there for a second.