Preview & Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  December 5, 2008

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Records: Lakers 15-2 (1st in West) Wizards 3-13(15th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.1 (3rd in League) Wizards 106.0 (16th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.8 (2nd in League) Wizards 111.3 (27th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Wizards : Dee Brown, DeShawn Stevenson (the pride of Fresno), Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, JaVale McGee

Lakers notes: Just one note today, according to an interesting post at the still-going-strong Supersonics Soul, Lakers television ratings are up 9% on Fox Sports so far this year.

1789 The District is a great place to visit, and I’m not sure I ever enjoyed a meal more than at 1789, an amazing old-school Georgetown restaurant. Plus the bar below that is right out of St. Elmo’s Fire.

The Wizards Coming In: To get a little insight into the Wizards, I asked a few questions of Truth About It (and if you head over there he has my answers about the Lakers).

Q: When Eddie Jordan got canned, the consensus around the Web was he was unfairly axed because the real issues were injuries and the roster. Is that a fair assessment? How much did he contribute to his own demise?

I really hated to see Eddie go and would have rather him finish out the remainder of the season. At one point, the Washington Post had a poll showing that 72% thought the firing was unfair. However, I think I can speak for many Wizards fans in saying that no one was exactly devastatingly heartbroken over Jordan’s departure. Out of all the players, Caron Butler probably took it the hardest, initially refusing to speak to the media.

Yes, Jordan drove a hapless franchise into the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. However it was becoming more and more apparent that the team didn’t have the goods to make a title push. Defense wins championships. Before last season, the Wizards tried to hire Tom Thibodeau to be their defensive guru, but he opted for Boston instead, and I believe you guys know the rest of that story.

Option #2 became Randy Ayers, who is now the lead assistant under Ed Tapscott. Ayers, I believe, provided some positive results. But in the end, I think GM Ernie Grunfeld felt that it was just time to completely change the coaching philosophy from the top. I 80% doubt that Tapscott will be at the helm next year, so it will be all about who the Wizards hire for the future. Wanna loan us Phil Jackson?

Q: Lakers fans still have a soft spot for Caron Butler after his time here. His numbers look good. How is he performing?

And Wizards fans still have an intense hatred for Kwame Brown. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mitch Kupchak! Funny….at the time, I was slightly miffed that the Wizards did not get more for Brown, such as a throw-in 2nd or 1st rounder.

Caron Butler puts the team on his shoulders the best he can, and is highly respected on an off the court. He is such an admirable person, I really hope “Tuff Juice” retires as a Washington Wizard.

But as much as he does, Caron cannot carry a team alone. He doesn’t have the handles/quickness to create for himself and/or others, mainly in late game situations when teams are focusing on him. And that’s why the Wizards miss a scorer like Gilbert Arenas so much.

Q: What is wrong with the Wizards defense? (That answer could probably fill a novel, so summarize.)

First and foremost, the absence of Brendan Haywood hurts. But even when he is healthy and in the lineup, the Wizards defense isn’t that great.

Problem #2 is that the Wizards “Big 3” of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison are all sub par defenders. It’s a far cry from having someone like Kobe or Kevin Garnett setting the tone on D for their respective teams.

The best “stopper” is DeShawn Stevenson, who is horribly inconsistent on offense, which at times affects his focus on defense. The second best stopper may be Dominic McGuire, who is only a 2nd year player and is severely challenged offensively.

Look out for the JaVale McGee kid. He may be the steal of the draft when all is said and done. He has the potential to be an amazing shot-blocker, but is rail thin and must add some muscle to really hold his own against the big boys of the league.

Otherwise, the Wizards mostly must resort to the gimmicky match-up zone, along with doubling the rock off ball screens. Good rebounding and/or passing teams take advantage of these aspects by racking up second chance points or draining open three-point attempts.

Keys To The Game: Every team does it — play like crap on the last game of a road trip. Frankly, I think the Lakers had their crap game of this trip at the start, so they had better show up focused tonight.

As for the rest, I turn it over to the scouting report at

Defensively, the Wiz are a long and fairly athletic team. They have more potential than their record shows. This is a team (with Butler and Jamison once again setting the tone) likes to jump into the passing lanes for steals. Once again the adage of ‘fake a pass to make a pass’ comes into play. After some free throws we may see some full court pressure. Another defensive strategy that Washington has employed against some excellent scorers is to simply trap and take the top option out of the equation. With the various offensive weapons we have and Kobe’s willingness to move the ball this would be a risky option but we will be ready for it anyway.

The final part to beating this team is to control the paint/boards. If we control this area we can control the game. This team beat up New Jersey and then went down to the wire against Portland so even though they have a poor record, lately they are definitely improving. If we play against their record we will get beat. If we respect them and show that respect by attacking them then we will be successful.

Where you can watch:KCAL 9 here in LA, nationally you’ll need League Pass or one of the several Web streams for the game. Remember, 4 p.m. tip off.



97 responses to Preview & Chat: The Washington Wizards

  1. Javele McGhee is a big body. He and Blatche are both promising young bigs, so should be a fun game to see how Andrew plays against a couple guys in his age group.

    This is yet another game where we should pound the ball inside, either for shots from our bigs, or kickouts for our shooters. Hope to see better defensvive rotations today as well.

  2. half-PUJIT sighting!

  3. For all the chastising I’ve done of Fisher for the in transition PUJ, score one for him. Maybe all that practice is paying off…

  4. Bynum looking smooth today. He’s starting to develop a bad habit of whining to the refs.

    And wow Kobe. Pass off the backboard, then pass to Gasol. He’s been quite creative recently.

  5. I love the Wizards. Gilbert has been awesome since he almost knocked Duke out of the NCAA championship game by himself.

    They have a promising core, it seems. McGee is stupid athletic, albeit young. Arenas’ play can stand for itself, provided his knee doesn’t fall off. Blatche could become a shot blocking presence. Haywood is a good defensive big. Stevenson has come along way since his days with the Magic. Caron, Laker fans can appreciate what he brings. Jamison would be a dynamite sixth man.

    They just need to get healthy and to get a “defensive” coach. The offense will take care of itself when the team gets healthy. But they need a defensive scheme to match their personal.

    Might I (selfishly) suggest Tom Thibodeau as head coach? If he can turn Ray Allen and Paul Pierce into servicable defenders, he can freshen up the Wizards too. Plus, what assistant coach doesn’t want to be a head coach someday? If the Wizards threw out a good contract, he would jump ship. Thib’s stock has never been, and might never be, higher than it is right now.

  6. Granted, there are players maybe as good or dominant overall (lebron) as Kobe, but is there anyone close to as skilled as this guy? That pass to himself off the glass, then dish to Pau looked so easy, it’s ridiculous

  7. Bynum’s fakes have me smiling

  8. And some pretty good footwork from bynum too, loving it. That said, vlad needs to box out.

  9. I really like what I see from Andrew lately. He’s taking position, not settling. I can’t wait until Christmas to see how he responds to Perk.

  10. Anone notice Ariza gets a travelling call on him almost every game. Especially when he drives from the top of the key.

  11. First Gasol loses the handle on a layup, then Bynum misses a dunk. Yikes.

  12. why does the wizards jersey say “zephyrs”?

  13. It’s retro night or something like that and they are wearing the jerseys of the Chicago Zephrys (apparently that’s what they used to be called).

  14. Wow Kurt, a shout out to Fresno in your preview, Thanks! So is that a compliment or dis saying DeShawn is the pride of Fresno? I would have to say Bruce Bowen gets the nod for ‘pride of Fresno’ since he’s got some rings, but we are all really pulling for those Lopez brothers to make us proud…

  15. How did Pau see and catch that no look Kobe pass for the dunk.

  16. Oh Lamar-he seems to get one of those every other game or so.

  17. The second unit has been disappointing tonight. This is the second time they’ve allowed a big lead to dwindle.

  18. Lakers going to give up another 4th quarter lead at this rate. Phil get your starters back in there.

    Luke cannot play in this offense anymore. He refuses to flash and slash to the basket. Ariza and Luke just sitting their waiting for Bynum to do something.

    Jordan not playing D as usual. Let Young get inside position and didn’t even try for the rebound.

  19. this game, in the 4th qtr, is Phil letting young ‘Drew learn not to question the master.
    play the minutes your given, with all you got, and leave the coaching to the coaches!

  20. Kobe, please stop shooting jumpers

  21. LO missed two crucial free throws

  22. Please put Bynum back in…

  23. Kobe is ice-cold. Why isn’t Bynum in the game?

  24. Indianapolis allover again?

  25. And of course he makes that one…

  26. I can’t believe this.. 16 pts in the 4th and we are saying we don’t have to worry about our offense

  27. I guess that’s Kobe.

    Like the Indiana game, shouldn’t have been this close in first place.

  28. 17..I was about to say, it’s a sad day when Caron Butler closes a game better than Kobe Bryant

  29. Our 2nd unit sure loves to lose leads

  30. i question how much we have ‘grown’ since last year…this team cant close out games!!!

  31. I don’t understand why Phil keeps Odom in the game when the Wizards are getting to the basket fairly often. It’s not like he’s doing anything to justify being out there, at either end. Phil seems to be trying to teach Bynum a lesson or something.

  32. 2 of their starters played only 9 and 7 min

  33. Lakers are damn lucky.

  34. My heart paused for a second there.

  35. God what an ugly win. Whats up with giving up big leads in the fourth quarter. The Lakers are playing great in the 3rd then sucking it up bad in the 4th.

  36. Wow, and I thought the 12.5 spread was money..At least we got the win

  37. Wow. The Lakers need to stop doing this… it’s not good for my health. Well at least Butler’s three didn’t go in, so that’s good enough for me for tonight.

  38. If there is such a thing as a bad win, this was it.

  39. I really hope that at some point Phil starts putting Bynum in to close out these games, because we’re getting killed on the boards and have no interior presence when he’s on the bench in the closing minutes.

    I understand Odom is the vet but Drew is the future of this franchise and it would be great for him to get some burn in crunch time…

  40. This might as well have been Indiana all over again. At least it hurts less to be on the winning end of a bad performance.

  41. sasha and drew were weak links in the 4th qtr meltdown tonight. when sasha is cold, he doen’t bring much else.
    at least trevor will bring some steals to turn it around.

  42. The second unit does it again. Also, Lamar is his usual, flaky self in the 2nd half. Phil insists on putting Lamar in at the end of the game and then his passes and defensive passiveness are part of the problem. When LO is down low I can almost guarantee he will get posterized, because he stands passively and doesn’t even rise up on his toes.

  43. now remember people, no whining about our defense!

  44. Also, if Lamar were not part of the closing game, I wonder if Kobe would be more willing to actually try to run the offense.

  45. we really are not so good as we thought we are…

  46. they deserved to lose in Ind, and did. they deserved to lose tonight, and didn’t. I guess it all evens out.

    this kind of thing will get into your head. and your opponents’ head. some players in individual sports develop a reputation for choking. that can happen to teams too. not good, not good.

  47. all this crappy playing and poor decision making can be traced back to last year…we are not better than last years finals and this is the coaches fault..they continue to fail to change strategy during the game…also what is with this Sasha dude? He is totally not worth the money he is getting.

  48. Celtics look a lot better than the Lakers right now.

  49. We were up 98 to 80 – that should have been lights out, game over, thanks for coming, get home safely. Instead…we stopped driving, settled for bad jumpers with the shot clock winding down and avoided another loss to a sub-.500 team thanks to Jordan’s last second alteration of Caron’s 3 point attempt. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to know that we can still hold on to win, but this is not a trend that continue. This is a bad mental habit that is borne out of overconfidence when we amass these big leads at the end of the third quarter. Nice to get another win, but we have to maintain intensity and let the foot off the gas once it’s firmly in hand. Still #1 in the west, still winning, still blowing big leads…for now.

  50. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said four of his players — Bryant, Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza — have a competition going to see who can accumulate the most steals this season.

    Figures… i hope Kobe stays out of such games tho. Argh.

  51. Hart
    not only the Celtics…
    our team has made losing leads in the 4th q a habit. If we play the celtics or the Cavs like this we will loose by 40 again.
    We are good at making S&^(@# teams look great…excuse my french..

  52. I really hate to hear about a steals competition, especially when Kobe is involved. The means he will be gambling more – when his man is Nick Young this can be a problem.

  53. We’ve seen this from Phil before. He wants that unit to be truly effective, and he is going to leave them on the floor so they can gel & work things out. If it takes the entire season for that to happen, that’s what needs to happen.

  54. I understand the need to let the bench play but I have 2 concerns:

    1. Luke, leave him out please.
    2. Defensive intensity of the team as a whole

  55. Just look at what the celtics ,the Cavs and the Pistons have done/are doing to Philly/Indiana/Blazers the past few days and today and you will realise where we ‘re at compared to them..

  56. the bench gave me second thoughts about their being a great bench tonight. so many turnovers and lazying around.we can’t just be losing leads back and forth. dominant teams don’t do this. maybe it’s for drama or something but this is not a mark of a great team and if we are to take it to the next level as far as jargon is concerned, let’s please be more consistent specially on D.

    luke is losing it…whatever he had.

    andrew and pau were okay

    always great to have a kobe.

  57. Man! i just finished watching the game. What a roller coaster for my heart health! I was dying seeing the Lakers give up that fourth quarter lead. I’m not sure there was anything they did spectacularly wrong, they just missed a lot of open shots. I think the slight adjustment will be exactly what Stu was saying during the broadcast. The Lakers, and Kobe in particular, need to figure out how to force the issue into middle, even when teams pack it in, as the Wizards did. Other than that, if the Lakers even made 3 of the billion open shots they had during the fourth, the game wouldn’t have been nearly as nerve wracking. What you think?

  58. Also, the +/- for this game is really odd. Most of the Lakers had HUGE +/- and most of the Wizards had dismal +/-.

  59. hehey ross. i think there is a scheme to everything…a drama so to speak as has been in the eras of past as has been in jordan’s years. kobe has his own dance to finish and i don’t think 2008-2009 counts as a downer. and am not so sure there will be last second tip ins or dramatic comebacks from players who think they’re the best in the league without second thinking it.

    you won’t see kobe doing the iso lest he needed to and if i were to use your line of argument i’d say we’d see more of action and quality one at that than cheap talkers. on the contrary, i’d think the lakers are pacing well for a good showdown with the celtics. tis all good here in lakerland. see ya greens in the house of purple and gold.

  60. The sad thing about the Lakers are that they are full of talent but don’t play with passion. I admire Ariza cause at least he goes after everything. Farmar can’t guard for beans. You’re Rad is just a total loser – how do they start that guy?! LO – great talent but will crumple in the critical moments. Sasha is over paid and plays like a spaz. Bynum and Gasol, talented but not willing to show aggression – should play in the WNBA. Kobe – even I love him but he now hurts the team cause he aint the same guy that tore Toronto a new hole. Tries for too many steals and doesn’t play team defense. Goes into his isolation plays while everyone watches…just like last year. I can go on but you all know it’s true. You’re not going to win any championship until your guys really want it and play every quarter!!! Obviously no team can be perfect, but when the Celtics aren’t shooting well our defense shuts down the opponents.

  61. Hey,

    I was at the game tonight, my first laker game in person. I must say, Kobe’s off night and Lamar’s lackadaisical play we’re a big hindrance to the team tonight. I really felt like kobe went into mamba mode, and as a result, everyone kind of stood around.

    I mean, I understand why he did it. He was trying to close out the game; which is what he does and should do.

    However, as smart as he is, he should of known how cold he was, and tried to draw the defense for open shots. It should be noted they shot very well, i think 50% from outside. It would have been smart to have vlad in the game at the end, he really had it going.

    Still, luckily my first laker game was a success, and I’m glad I went.

    Something to keep in mind; maybe because of all the time between games early in the season. The team is getting a little gassed now they’re playing a heavier schedule, despite the level of competition.

    Go Lake Show!

  62. Hey, we are not going to get a Lakers/Celtics insult match. We will have a civil discussion with points, but it will not be a bunch of “Odom sucks” or whatever. I’m just going to start deleting baiting comments.

    Also, I’m fairly sure that David Stern does not hand out the trophy after 18 games. Right now, the Lakers and Celtics are clearly the best in their conferences, but in December that means nothing. Let alone which one is playing better now.

  63. 60.

    If you say that about the Lakers, I can’t even begin to imagine what you think of the other teams in the league.

  64. “Just look at what the celtics ,the Cavs and the Pistons have done/are doing to Philly/Indiana/Blazers the past few days and today and you will realise where we‘re at compared to them.”

    I saw what the Pistons did to Philly tonight: gave up 38 4th-quarter points and blew a 15 point 2nd half lead.

  65. Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s assessment?

    “Poor coaching,” he said. “That’s what it was tonight. Putting too much trust and faith in a younger group—a second unit. They just can’t hold it on the road. They can’t withstand the fury or the intensity of the fourth quarter. I’m going to have to change it up a little bit.”

  66. to be fair Kurt, for deleting my post, shouldn’t sgt. ross’ post’s be deleted as well?

    It’s obvious he’s joining the disscussion to rile up everyone about our team.

    I don’t think my post merited deletion, if sgt ross’ did not either.

    Thank you

  67. I like that Kurt’s comments have a box outline around them, it’s kind of like…”Hey, if you need a voice of reason around here, I’m your guy”

  68. adam…I’m not sure what Kurt deleted from you…but he deleted my other post…so you really didn’t want to read that one. I’m not trying to rile you all up. We’re all entitled to our opinion and I truly believe the Lakers are full of talent – but lots of it untapped and wasted because lots of the players don’t have the heart of a champion yet. I think you have to have that fire burning inside, the killer instinct, to win the big one and stay up there. This may not be a great analogy but someone like a Roger Federer, Nadal…those kinds of players will play out every point and try to beat you 6-0, 6-0. Yes, some mental lapses at times but they can close out the match. Then there’s players with tons of talent but lack the focus and mental toughness. Lakers have the ability to dominate but they don’t. They end up playing sloppy D, showboating, lose focus…and then nearly give games away. I think teams now know that even if the Lakers have a big lead on them, they have the possibility to come back and steal it away. That possibility gives teams hope and they keep grinding away and sure enough they’re back in the game.

  69. He’s right, I deleted a few posts, trying to bring the tone down a bit. Nothing personal.

  70. Kurt, What’s the scoop with this check box to notify me of followup comments?, I just noticed it now, funny me.

  71. for the first time this blog has gotten to be too much. it’s taking the fun out of this season. im done.

  72. SgtRoss,

    Instead of cherry picking the last few games on the road against Eastern Conference teams that the Lakers will never face in the playoffs, please consider the absolutely dominating performances they had against Portland, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Houston, who all are significant contenders in the West. And the last time I checked, the Celtics lost to that same Pacers team earlier this year.

    You put far too much emphasis on regular season games in December, especially when you have a coach like Phil Jackson who loves to tinker in the beginning stages of the season. Do you really think the Wizards would have had a chance if he had left the best unit in there in the 4th? No way, and he admitted as much himself.

    Also, your assessment of Pau and Bynum as WNBA players is quite amusing. You’re in for a surprise on the 25th when Pau will be out for vengeance and Bynum is devouring Perk for Christmas dinner.

  73. Which do you all prefer?

    A roller coaster preseason with all the drama in the world and a cinderella regular season capped with a disappointing, embarrasing finish?


    An exciting preseason followed by a roller coaster regular season with everyone conjuring up drama for the winningest team we’ve had in years, capped with a… we don’t know yet.

    I’m dead serious about asking this, because I’m beginning to favor the former.

  74. I prefer the former as well. There were no expectations and things were a lot more fun . . . BUT . . . if expectations pan out this year, then I will take the latter every time.

  75. ST, just kind of how the comment RSS works in the new site.

  76. How many of you guys work with Celtic fans? 😉 SgtRoss sounds like a couple of guys I see every day.

    The defensive lapses are obviously a cause for concern, but it is just as obvious that the team is better, and it was a 57-25 team last year.

    We will know more on Dec 25.

  77. Phil refuses to change anything up. The same substitution every game at the same time. The other team knows this and counters with a group that our subs can’t handle if they are not shooting lights out.

    Giving the other team momentum at the start of fourth quarter gets them right back in the game. Especially when Jordon decides dribbling is more fun than passing, Odom is on a walkabout and it seems Sasha can’t make anything except fouls and turnovers.

    Phil has to get it through his head that playing the same way game after game is not always the best way to go. Maybe somebody needs to start playing some head games with him.

  78. Of course there’s no real reason to panic right now, and of course we’ll get a clearer picture when the rotations stabilize after the all-star break.

    But there are certain qualities we are seeing in this team that give pause for concern, especially the waning intensity on the defensive end and the lack of killer instinct in 4th quarters.

  79. Most celtic fans just repeat rehashed tired, and inaccurate assessments from poor writers. Bynum soft ? Has he watched any games ? Nevermind the rest of his comments. It’s pretty much similiar to barbershop talk. That’s not an insult to anyone. But if you’re going to come here and bash our team, at least be accurate. We here at FB&G claimed our team during the rough years, not just after some magical trades.

    Also, I can’t stand this thought that the Celtics are so tough and physical. It’s not true. They are great at rotating and keeping focus, which makes them great at defense, but it’s not because of physicality. If KG is tougher than than Paul or =amar, then it’s not by much, and it wasn’t before last year. Dude takes 18 footers all day. All of a sudden new Celtic fans think they have the reincarnation of the bad boys. Not even. – could go on and on, and I donBt know WHY I started.

    I’m not even worried about the leads. Maybe it’s alttle concerning when they get doubled up in the 4th, but they still take care of business, and they STILL get big leads. Ask the Hornets about finishing games. They are losing. If this is stll happening at games 50+, then be concerned. Not game 18 after a week on the road in the 3rd game in 4 nights. Would you prefer a tight game all 4 quarters then pull it out in the final minutes ? or maybe not. think about it.

  80. We have a bunch of Chicken Little’s running around here. When Kobe posts a spectacular game, 90% of the time, everyone’s praising his feet. The first (or second) off-night of the season, and everyone’s frantic. We’ve mostly given up these huge leads to bad teams because of Phil’s coaching decisions. And I’m willing to let him decide what must be done 18 games into the season, especially if his strategies improve the quality of our team. If that means playing the second unit a bunch, so be it.

    I think that most of the nay-sayers would agree that our starters should play a reduced number of minutes, limiting the chances of injury and protecting their health for later in the season. These same wah-wahers would probably also agree that our second team needs in-game experience to develop, and their development inevitably benefits the overall improvement of the team. If you do believe in these principles, you would look at last night in a different light. A little sense might also tell us that against the creme de la creme of the league, Jackson will likely play the team that will offer the best chance of winning. But against the Walkers and Wizards?

  81. One thing I note is that we are putting a little too much emphasis on the 25 Dec game. What if we lose that one? Will we be losers for the rest of the year?

    I think the most important thing for this team is to be playing well going into the playoffs.

    Yes I will be disappointed if we lose on 25 Dec, but the world won’t end.

  82. Good stuff all around.

    I think it’s fine to make some criticism here and there as long as it’s not the doom and gloom type. I think part of the fun of a forum like this is the analysis we get from much-more-knowledgable-than-me sources that helps to break down what we see on the court night after night–positive and negative.

    It’s when that analysis turns exhaustively negative that it can be a turn off to read.

    I say we relish what we have, analyze, appropriately, what we could be doing better all while enjoying the company of fellow Lakers fans (and some not so fans.)

  83. “One thing I note is that we are putting a little too much emphasis on the 25 Dec game. What if we lose that one? Will we be losers for the rest of the year?”

    No, but as I said, we will KNOW more about this team after that game, in terms of whether it will win the title. It is already clear that the Lakers are better than they were last year. It is also clear they still have some issues with defense/closing out games/holding leads. But are they as good as the Celtics now? Dec 25 will provide some info about that question.

  84. Craig W.,

    Good point.

  85. What I want to see form the Celtic game is how Bynum plays against Perk. In my opinion, it was Perk’s defense of Pau (which put a wrench in our whole offense), and Eddie House’s stretching the floor that made the difference in the Finals more than any other match-ups. So, win or lose, the real test is in that match-up.

  86. The above quote from Phil in comment 65 is vintage carrot-stick work from the master of head games. The second unit has been getting a bit careless and in game situations have not effected their performance of late so PJ is letting them know that playing time is now at risk.

    Watching the Indiana game I wondered why Bynum hadn’t played much in the second half. I was on a plane during the the Wiz game but comments suggest that the same was true of that game. Anyone care to suggest what the thinking behind that is?

    Rondo both excites and scares the hell out of me. I like his game and while he doesn’t control the game the way Williams or Paul do he brings disruption to the opposition in the way the best PGs always have. Having so many PG’s in the league (UCLA, PG capital of the NBA? Baron, Earl, Farmar, Westbrook. I’m wracking my brain trying to think what school currently provides as great a mix of quality and quantity in today’s league) coupled with the new bigmen is, no question, a sign of the game’s health. But, the fact that our biggest rival and second most likely opponent in the Finals has Rondo on their roster is scary as hell. He has definitely improved and I’m currently wondering if his improvement coupled with the Celtic’s clear dominance of us last year is compensated for by the fact that Bynum has returned and is improving, that Pau is clearly more efficient at the 4 and that Ariza provides what he provides (although not the consistent jumpshot we were hoping for)?

    Oh, and I agree fully with wondahbap and Kareem regarding people’s frustration with the team. This is how Phil Jackson teams roll. They experiment, they have drama, they consistently improve because of these conditions and if PJ wasn’t on a two Finals losing streak we would all be fully confident that things will work themselves out in the same way we are sure that water flows downhill.

    Here is the thing about LO. He provides options. So long as a team does not rely on him to cover every requirement that star players bring to their position then LO provides a team with the specter of what he is capable of and the opposition has to account for those possibilities. Will he bring rebounding and end to end fast break options at the 4 or will he bring strength, length and some slashing at the 3? Will he be part of the triumvirate of internal passing or will be a stopgap while one of the big boys rest? Will Lamar disappear in every way and yet remain accounted for in the awareness of the opposition or will his contribution be made obvious by the stat sheet? All these conditions are possible and have to be accounted for even while some of those conditions will be neglected as some point by LO. This is what LO brings to this Lakers team and those who say that he sucks or is weak or disappears need to have a look at the Dao Teh Jing to realize that, “When the Sage has achieve their purpose, the people look around and claim the achievements as their own”. I don’t mean to add mysticism to LO’s character but like the Sage, LO is about flow and not forcing things. He achieves by filling empty spaces and emptying that which is full. Compare that to what KG brings to the Celtics, a great bellowing and prancing, and choking when the game is in question while getting all the credit when his stats fill up after the game is decided (Watch the Finals. KG was busy rimming dunks and fade away jump shot alike when the pressure was on and could only shout out his relived celebration after his team bailed him out of the choke job for once. Credit where it is due, the Celtics were clearly better but not KG). Lets just say that I find LO’s faults as a player more interesting then KG’s rituals.

  87. I was reading in the Times today about Caron Butler, and if the team felt it was a mistake to deal him, (2 time All-star), the response was “well we got Pau for Kwame, who came over in the Kwame for Butler trade, and they feel good about that”.

    which got me to thinking, we got Lamar and Butler for Shaq, then we got Kwame for Butler (essentially) and then got Pau for Kwame….

    so, this means we got LO and Pau for Shaq, and while at the time, (Kwame) we were hating life, it sure looks brilliant now doesn’t it?

  88. I think we also got a draft pick that we used for Farmar. So it was Farmar, Pau, and LO for Shaq.

  89. P. Ami,
    Very sage observation on KG and last year’s finals – no change from the past. My issues with Lamar revolve solely around his ability to disappear/make bone-headed plays when the pressure is the greatest, not his talent or flow. He can be a danger to our team if he is on the floor during a very close endgame. He is old enough and experienced enough that I think his basketball character is set and Phil will be unable to change this. The problem is that he comes through some of the time, just not a high percentage of the time. I don’t want him in line to get a pass in traffic or to pass into traffic when the game is on the line. Other than that I would like to have him on the floor.

  90. And we were terrible the year after Shaq left and got a lottery pick, so add Bynum to that list.

  91. Watching these last few games, I was reminded of something that was glaringly obvious last year – our 2nd unit is not reliable on the road. I had hoped things would change somewhat with LO and Ariza added to the reserves, but the same problems seem to be rearing up again with sloppiness and allowing big leads to slip away. We had the same problems last year.

  92. This year, the Lakers are far ahead of my expectations. After all, their winning percentage is almost .900. They win by 2 against teams with a losing record when they might have lost by 10 or even 20 last year. They’ve won by 20 against teams that they beat by 5 last year. They’ve been built with redundancies against injury, but injuries have been minimal so far.

    The Laker 2nd unit has been much better this year at establishing leads, but no better at holding them. I’m not sure that the “closeout” unit needs to have the same players as the 2nd unit. Earlier in the game, the 2nd unit is there to increase tempo. In the end, it is to run the triangle offense, avoid easy transition baskets, and play good defense. Those are not the same skills.

    I have a hard time seeing either Sasha or Lamar as players to hold a lead, but good players to stage a comeback. Phil might want to expand the rotation beyond the current 2nd team specifically for “hold the lead” situations early in the fourth quarter. Luke is an obvious player for that “hold ’em” role–though there are others to consider as well.

  93. PeanutButterSpread December 7, 2008 at 4:05 am

    never forget: Boston Finals 24.

    It should be ingrained in every Laker players brain, if not permanently tattooed across their heads until they win the championship.

    Seriously, blowing big leads again, especially after blowing the lead in game 4, I thought the team would have learned a lesson … it’s a good thing we’re early in the season but we’ve already done this losing big leads thing 6 times out of the 16 times we’ve played. That’s not a good trend, even though it’s early in the season, but that’s precisely why it’s a bad thing. It is early in the season and if we start losing big leads early in the season, it’s going to be a hard habit to shake.

    Not trying to be chicken little, but still … I hate close games and I hate blown leads. It’s a sign of lazy defense, lazy offense, bad teamwork and I put that blame on the bench mob for letting up too quickly.

    Hopefully this trend will reverse asap, for the sake of the team and the health of the fans 🙂

  94. Why is it that I get the feeling that some of these “lakers-fans” sound like Celtics fans just smashing in Boston highlights of last year….?

  95. drrayeye,
    Good to see you back.
    Your idea about a ‘hold ’em’ squad is a great one for Kurt to use as lead thread. We really haven’t discussed this aspect of the game as a separate group of individuals – just 1st team and 2nd team. This concept does fit the way Phil might manage a team and would be fun to talk about.

    I like your idea about using Walton to slow down and stabilize a ‘hold ’em’ unit, but he would be out of his depth against a GS type of squad. Kobe and Ariza should probably be the base and Gasol/Bynum would be used depending on the bigs we are playing against. Actually, I would like to see Powell paired with Gasol to provide flexibility and toughness – maybe we should try this in the 2nd qtr before adding it to any endgame scenario.

  96. Dr Ray,

    While you are correct regarding the “hold onto the lead” line-up, Luke was not the answer. His inability to slash the lane, rebound, and play adequate defense almost cost us the game against the Wizards.

    I would like to see Bynum, Powell, LO, Sasha, and Fisher work together. You have our 3 best rebounders on the team plus a shooter and a floor general.

  97. Bucks preview post up