Note To Chicken Little

Kurt —  December 11, 2008

Lakers vs. 76ers
Today, we basically just steal from one of the best NBA writers on the Web, Kelly Dwyer. This is his recap of the ugly Lakers win against Phoenix last night from Ball Don’t Lie:

So, am I the only one who isn’t pulling a Chicken Little routine with the Lakers right now?

This team is 18-3, that’s 18 wins in 21 games (geesh), and to listen to ESPN’s broadcast last night, you got the feeling that their time had come and gone. The Lakers are listless. The Lakers don’t play defense. Magic and Kareem would have never let this happen.

Except, they did. Just about every team “let this happen.” Holes are holes, and Los Angeles’ veteran backcourt sometimes allows for too much dribble penetration. Big deal. Damon Stoudamire used to kill the Bulls. They still won 72 games.

Even with those holes, the Lakers are still third in defensive efficiency. But combine a Kings loss with a talking point gone mad and some anecdotal evidence as a tremendous offensive team from Phoenix managed to (shock horror) get into the lane a few times, and you have a nauseating watch.

The Lakers won, mind you. They won by five and did it against a Suns team that played very well. The Suns earned that 50.6 shooting mark from the floor, and the “Shaq didn’t play, the team was sad about the trade, Nash only shot 2-12″ elements don’t bother me in the slightest. Honestly.

It’s an 82 game season, and the Lakers are on pace to win 71 of them. I don’t think they will, but I also don’t think I’m going to bleat and moan and pretend this team is anything less than fan-flippin’-tastic.

Kurt

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86 responses to Note To Chicken Little

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I’m also very happy with the play of Pau as of late. He’s on a real tear=)

  2. thanks KD, well said…I for one was really getting sick and tired of Marc Jackson constantly talking about “no defense”…he was way overdoing it, like a broken record. when someone did make a nice defensive play, (like Trevor picking Nash’s pocket) did he mention it? nooooooooo…
    all we got was a constant stream of “no defense, no defense, no defense” for the whole game. I had no choice, not being in LA right now, so I couldn’t turn the channel to at least get Stu and Joel.

  3. Glen “crybaby” Davis December 11, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Shaq wasn’t playing because he was in the studio recording his latest rap album titled, “Kobe can’t freestyle like me”.

    Seriously, the Lakers are damn good and I would rather have them have occasional defensive lapses during the regular season, then have them be burned out and tired come playoff time and have the defensive lapse then.

  4. I didn’t have a problem with Jackson criticising the defense, but it did get to a point where he wasn’t even making legitimate arguments any more. He was just waiting for the possession to end so he could tell us (for the 100th time) how bad the Lakers were defensively.

    That’s how Jackson is though – once he is set on a particular point you can be sure he will repeat the same thing ad nauseum for the rest of the game.

  5. THANK YOU and DITTO! I love how people were so quick to give the Lakers the championship 7 games into the season, but quicker still to call them doomed after they’ve won 18 of their first 21 games (86% of their games played!)! RELAX, people, there are 61 games left! Every team needs to “fail” a little. And you know what “failing” does to this team. It’ll provide some much-needed fuel!

  6. according to trudell:

    “I’d wondered aloud (or in words, two paragraphs ago) about whether or not L.A.’s defense could lock down for a stretch , and it’s certainly fair to say that they did as Phoenix managed just four points from the 7:16 to 2:35 mark of the quarter. The score had been 91-90 Lakers, before the home team stretched it to 103-94 … Quite the time for a 12-4 run, right?”

  7. I can’t pretend that I’m not a little confused with the way the Lakers are playing right now, win-loss record be damned. I am not complaining; just frustrated. That said, KD made me feel just a little bit better this morning.

  8. I agree with KD, and all the people about Marc Jackson. He went a little overboard on sayoing how bad the Lakers D was. Yeah its been bad for the last week and a half, but they can play D and every team goes through a stretch where they play bad; even teams that win a lot of games.

  9. I don’t compeletly agree with KD (who I think is the best in the biz, aside from Kurt). The Lakers are winning, so it’s hard for people to complain, and I enjoy the wins too. However, it is not the right approach for this team in the long-run to lapse into habits that will bite us in the ass come playoff time. There is no excuse for Kobe’s defense of late. He just isn’t following the team scheme. Not to make this a comparison game, but MJ would never, ever, routinely take off several possessions on defense allowing a scrub to gain confidence against him. Also, he would never allow his teammates to have such terrible communication on defense that leads to our ‘perma-scramble’ defense that allows open jumpers.

    Also, I really liked what Drew did in the 4th qtr for us defensivley, and really wish PJ would let Drew finish games.

    Mark Jackson is a clown, and he was switched at the end of the game yesterday, but there I have no problem with anyone questioning the commitment to defense by the Lakers, especially Kobe, Fish and Pau. For Vlad to be scapegoated (assuming he didn’t miss a meeting or something) is not fair and sends the wrong message to the team. I know ‘olympic’ d kobe can’t show up all 82, but the things must improve for the Lakers to get where they want.

  10. On a happier note, it was fun to see PJ use last year’s finishing unit (with Sasha) to close out. PJ is defintley still experimenting, and I think that finding a role for Sasha is important. Good to see him knock down some big shots yesterday, it may help his confidence.

  11. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3761462

    Uh-oh. Doesn’t this make Kobe more injury prone? He’s taking a bit of a risk…in a sport where you see rolled ankles left and right….I don’t know about this one, Kobe

  12. I’ve been disgusted with Kobe’s defense the most lately. He’s downright awful at even knowing where his man is off the ball. He gambles all over the place, he shoots gaps between screens, gives up back door cuts. If he even gets mentioned in the same breath as the All-Defensive team this year, it will be a travesty, a sham, and a mockery. A traveshamockery.

  13. All that matters is that the team clicks at the end of the season and the playoffs. This is the time to mess up and learn.
    I think next year the team will be a lot better than this year, though.

  14. I agree. It’s December. The team has played better defense over the first month and change than I would have expected. If you told me the team would be 3rd in defensive efficiency at this point, I’d take it and be happy.

    Not to say that things don’t need to be improved, but I think the progress is already happening.

  15. 12 – A little harsh, but I too am amazed at how a player as intelligent Kobe still thinks gambling for steals is the same or as good as lockdown defense.

    On a completely unrelated note, I was surprised at Steve Kerr’s comments following the trade. The generally accepted rule is that a GM effuses praise for any player he trades, no matter how worthless. Kerr didn’t exactly trash them, but it wasn’t your typical “I wish them the best” comments either:

    “Raja was a great player for us and he helped us win a lot of games while he was here,” Kerr told the newspaper. “But there is no question he was unhappy about the changes [under Porter] and how he was fitting into the plans. It wasn’t a good marriage from that standpoint. It was time to make changes.”
    As for Diaw, Kerr said: “Boris’ contract just didn’t fit into our salary structure. I feel much better paying Jason Richardson to play 35-40 minutes a night as a starter than to pay Boris to come off the bench and play a limited role.”

  16. This Little Pinky December 11, 2008 at 11:41 am

    A-Men to Kurt.

    11- Snoop, mabye Kobe will roll his ankle, and then get the surgery for his pinky.

  17. I grew up playing soccer, where there is a lot more strain on an ankle, including people slide tackling right at your feet to take the ball away. The boot design is always as tight to the foot, light, and small as possible. Professional soccer players seem to be fine, so why not take advantage of the chance for more agility, and a lighter shoe. Like he said if you come down on someones foot having a high shoe isn’t going to do anything. Taping your ankle is going to do alot more for stability than a high shoe, and kobe has his ankles taped every night. Nothing to worry about

  18. 14- A big reaon we are still 3rd in defensive efficiency is based on are first 7-10 games, where the team, as whole, was playing focused defense. During those games you defintley saw the improvement. Last 7-10 games, we have played well enough to win, but we have not played well defensively, and the argument can be made we are regressing back into ‘outscore the oppponent’ mode.

  19. Thank You!

    While I will agree with some of the concerns with the defense I think what is important to remember is that this team and all Phil Jackson teams, ALWAYS peak at the end of the season. I have been stressing that for a couple of weeks now. We all know that this team isn’t playing at full capacity and we’re still 18-3.

    Look at Cleveland and Boston. The Cavs are playing very well right now, but can you see them playing any better than they are now? They could be playing the best basketball all year. Will they get better?

    The Celtics have shown since last year to be consistent with their play, but I think a little fatigue is what made them struggle somewhat in the early rounds of the playoffs. But we know where they stand.

    With our Lakers, does anyone here doubt they will get better? That’s what you have to ask yourself if you are truly unhappy with their play. Sure, it’s frustrating, but keep in mind, that this is a team that lost in the Finals and knows that these games matter, but more to the fans, than to the big picture. It’s a process that we’ve seen this team make every year since Phil came back (barring 06-07 when injuries were too much to overcome). We’re 18-3 and not playing well? That’s a good thing if you ask me.

    Thanks Kurt and KD.

  20. Marc Jackson is just doing his job. They need to set up a theme to follow through games and the season. They are just setting up storyline to follow through to the playoffs so they can keep asking if the Lakers will be tough enough this year. This is why I love pro sports. Especially the NBA.

  21. To 9 & 12 (somewhat) – Kobe’s defense has been ridiculous for a month & a half, but it’s not just him. Its basically the whole team. Last year J’s were free for opponents, but the paint was locked down. Right now, the D is gambling for steals on the perimeter and in the paint. They happen to be BEST in the L, but that’s not D. And there will be no rings if this isn’t tightened up. Not to mention offensive execution and the rotations…

    This is not about whining in Dec. This is real Laker fans being a little confused and knowing this is NOT championship ball being played.

  22. Nobody is playing consistent championship ball right now, not Cleveland and not the Celtics. Nobody. What matters is getting this team playing right when it does matter. That means things should be worked on, but the “woe is me, the world is ending” stuff has just gotten over the top. It’s sucking the fun out of being a fan right now.

  23. Watching the last few Lakers games makes me wonder if the defensive scheme has been fully exposed already.

    Opponents simply swing the ball around to our “naked side” as Phil mentioned in an interview somewhere…

    I just don’t know what it is, all the talent is there, maybe it’s another mentality thing?

  24. 21- Agreed. Nobody is saying the season is over. In fact, looking at the defense habits developing over the course of the season is as big picture thinking as you can get. There has to be an eye to May/June and with that in mind, what team, as young as the Lakers, has ever just turned the switch. The Lakers are defintley good enough to amass a 60+ win season and steamroll through the West. To go to the next level we need to instill a philosphy, an attitude that defense matters, at all times. I think that is imperative.

    Wondahap-Good point about Phil building on momentum. My only thing is that works with teams that have done it before. We haven’t, so its like preparing for a test, starting early never hurts.

  25. Kurt (mad love for the site by the way), I have to disagree. We know Boston has a greater margin for error than us and they’re definitely playing champion D right now.

    And I’m not the woe is me type, but I don’t believe in inflated records either. There are a lot of bad teams right now. Of course the 18-3 is nice, but I watch the games. Shoot I was at the Indy game. The philosophies are very questionable right now. For 1, I think featuring Pau is fool’s gold long term. Bynum should be the 1st option on the block and if he can start the game, he should finish the game.

  26. *wondahbap (sorry for the mispell)

  27. 25. Were the Celtics playing championship D when they almost lost to the Pacers? They are doing it for a half most of the time, they are not focused like this is June. Nor should they be.

    And I think people sleep on just how good an offensive player Pau is, he is an elite, All Star guy on that end. Can score inside or out, and did it in the playoffs last year. This is a case where nobody thinks he’s a legit #2 until the Lakers win a title then everybody says “I told you he was a legit #2.” Just like Pippen.

  28. #12: “A traveshamockery”………freakin’ hilarious. That was my laugh for the day.

    It’s too soon to panic. Championships are not won in December……..blah blah.

    I keep hearing to “not panic. The Lakers can still improve”….but what if they don’t?? Our barometer is not winning the regular season or becoming the West Conf Champs……its being the NBA Champs. In that regard, we should only compare ourselves to Boston, Cavs, and maybe the Spurs. And right now……our defense is failing us. Last year, Boston’s commitment to defense started in Game 1 of the regular season. They did not waver once and they were pretty darn consistent throughout the year. Why can’t the Lakers do the same? Its been 7-10 games now that we stink. Even though we have won, who cares if its not victories vs. Boston, Cavs, SA. Until we play those teams and win convincingly, then I’ll feel better about our “upside/it’s early/we need to time to gel” talk. Till then…….I’m staying miserable.

  29. It’s really not about the Lakers not hitting their stride and yet, and they’re still 18-3. It’s not about looking “fan-flippin-tastic”. Here’s the actual concern:
    It’s about beating Boston. It’s only about beating Boston. Do we look like a team that can beat Boston in a 7 game series that we potentially may NOT have the home-court advantage? The race for home-court is critical because because sure as heck Boston is not going to lose too many games this year. Are we ready to beat Boston? That is what Laker fans are concerned with.

  30. I understand and appreciate the concerns about Boston, I really do. But two things, first is that we don’t play them seriously until June (the Christmas Day game is already getting overhyped in Lakers fans minds).

    Tied to that, if all you do between now and June is fret about if this team can beat Boston, you will miss out on the experience of enjoying this team for what it is. This is a very, very good team that is fun to watch. Enjoy them for that. It is not about the destination, it is about the journey.

  31. Kurt, they’re far from perfect, but Boston’s D is set. They’re not losing a playoff series or Finals because of their D. You know that. That saidsomeone mentioned above that they can’t play any better than this. I agree. The Lakers can and that’s where my hopes lie.

    About Pau, I just don’t care for him much and he did take half the WCF and the WHOLE Finals off last year and that’s a big reason we lost…embarrassingly. I WILL admit he’s a surprisingly good offensive player. All-star calibur even. I just think it’s better long term if Pau scores by playing off Bynum. You can’t trust Pau when he gets beat up.

    If Pau dominates the 09 Finals, I’ll be the 1st one here to eat crow.

  32. No mentions of Luke Walton becoming a starter and getting 4 assists in the the 1st quarter alone? I for one was ecstatic when I saw that Luke was starting. Phil Jackson said he wanted better ball movement with the starting 5, and what did he get? All 5 starters had an assist in the 1st quarter. Sure, watching Luke shoot three’s makes me sick compared to Radman, but same goes for Odom and Ariza three’s, as well as Fisher PUJITS. Also great to see Vujacic get some quality time and capitalize on it.

    Our depth makes me both squeal with joy and a little sad on the inside, mostly because good players like Radmanovic, Mihm, and Josh Powell can’t even get off the bench.

    And yea, I’ve said it from the beginning: our defense lives and dies by Kobe’s effort. You could see it a couple times last night when Kobe was locked in on Nash (he completely shut him down), but there were also lots of possessions where Kobe got beaten badly by Matt Barnes or Grant Hill.

  33. If we win the championship over Boston, I will explode in joy and then reflect how I was so miserable during the regular season and look back on it as a wild ride to the ultimate goal. I will break down in tears while holding my mock championship trophy in my arms at home.

    In a lot of ways and not just for home-court, we are already competing with Boston with every game. Yes, the season is long. However, how often does inconsistent play turn consistent all of a sudden? Are we hoping the Lakers hit their hot streak and play lock-down defense all of a sudden when the playoffs come around?

  34. How does anyone know if we can beat Boston or not? Have we played them yet? Have any of us watched every single game that Boston has played (in the same way that we’ve watched the Lakers play)? Do we even know for sure what they’re doing well and not or what their holes are on a game to game basis? Furthermore, even if we lose against them in December and/or February, does that mean that in a playoff series we won’t win? Personally, I’m tired of using Boston or Cleveland as a measuring stick. So Boston won the title last year….good on them. They earned it. They’re going to have to earn it again this year too (as will we if we win). I also know that for all the terribleness that we displayed in Game 6, the series was pretty close otherwise. I’m not going to rehash the specific numbers from that series, but we were closer to winning that series than anyone wants to admit now, especially when their memory is clouded by a Game 6 blowout.

    Our best is good enough to beat any other team’s best. Some may wonder about or question that, but I don’t. I think we all need to *truly* understand that we are not playing our best right now. The playoffs don’t start right now, though, either. And as much as I agree with the points made about “identity” and “good habbits” (I’ve said those things myself in the past), I also don’t want to get hung up on too many negatives when we’re finding ways to win games (NOT lose them) and are doing doing a lot of things quite well.

  35. 25

    I completely disagree about Gasol. Not only is he a far more skilled and versatile scorer than Bynum, he is also one of the best passing big men in the game. He has been drawing and dealing with double-teams his entire career, and nobody can cover him one-on-one. Bynum gets enough touches given where his offensive game is at this point in time.

  36. Darius,

    I agree with “I’m not going to rehash the specific numbers from that series, but we were closer to winning that series than anyone wants to admit now.”

    Right on. I could go on and on about that topic.

  37. #34, 36 I agree, too!

    I was amazed that NBA analysts started calling the series a 6 game “sweep.” I was wondering if I had watched the same series. If we had pulled out that game where we lost the 24 point lead, the last three games of the series would have been very interesting.

  38. @ 25 – No one can guard him 1-on-1 except for Kendrick Perkins, Garnett,… I’ll agree to disagree. One thing is true, PJ loves him, so he’ll remain the 2nd option.

    34 & 36 – Phrases like “our best beats their best” are just phrases. You have to bring it to win. To win, you have to practice and gel. That happens in the regular season. If “we” win, it’ll be because this current situation is fixed by April and May.

    And honestly, I hoped for a miracle game 7 too, but it was over after that horrible game 4 loss.

  39. I cannot fathom why anyone would have a problem with the way Pau is playing right now. He is carrying the Lakers offensively while Kobe is mired in his mini-slump (for him at least). It’s not a good idea to run everything through Bynum, for no other reason than he doesn’t need to be the sole focus of the offense to score. He should be focused on rebounding, defending, and working within the offense to get his scores. Pau is a far more experienced player, and handles double teasm quite well.

    I agree it’s not time to panic, but the Lakers need to play better defense, particulary communicating with each other. And it would help my blood pressure if they would stop turning the ball over so damn much.

  40. It’s December. And the game was against the Suns. I’ll start to worry when its February – and then only if we have not beaten the Celtics, Cavs, or Hawks at least once and the Trailblazers and Utah at least one more time. Otherwise, we have 3/4 more season to go.

    Frankly, I’d rather have the team figure out this early that changes need to be made than a week before or during the playoffs.

  41. A few random comments:

    1) Kobe’s D has just been horrific lately. Truly terrible. Grant Hill isn’t a bad player by any stretch, and has always had a great mid-range game. So why, pray tell, is Kobe leaving him all alone all game long?

    2) I’m really impressed with how hard Matt Barnes has worked on his game. Good for him. When he was at UCLA and then in his first few years in the League, he was always a scrappy, hustling player, but he couldn’t hit the ocean if he fell out of a boat. And now, he’s deadly from beyond the arc, while still being scrappy as ever. I really like it when guys earn their success, and he has.

    3) Is it just me, or has Andrew given up far too many easy shots down low. His defense has regressed as much as Kobe’s. It’s almost as if he is more concerned with not getting into foul trouble so that he can stay on the court. An admirable goal, I guess, but not at the expense of something he really brings to the table. He’s not challenging half of the shots that he used to.

    4) I don’t get the denigration of Pau. He’s been by far our best player thus far, and has to have opened some eyes with how well he has transitioned back to the 4 spot. And who knew he could run the floor like a floppy-haired giraffe? He gets a fast break dunk at least once per game, which is pretty amazing for a guy who people were worried about was not agile enough to play the 4.

    5) I’m as big a Cowboys fan as I am a Lakers fan, and LO is starting to remind me of the Cowboys LT, Flozell Adams. Immensely talented, can be dominating when properly focused, and yet is guaranteed to make at least one monumentally stupid play in every game that he plays. Cowboy fans have deridingly labeled the 1+ false start penalties that he incurs every game – at usually the worst possible moment – as Flo Starts. We need to come up with a clever nickname for the 1+ guaranteed stupid turnovers that LO makes every game. The LOTO, maybe?

  42. I think there is some validity to the worry even though some of it has been overstated. Ever since the Indiana game, and arguably even before our 2nd unit has been outplayed.

    Furthermore, our lauded defense from the first two weeks that gave for much of the high point differential has essentially been non existent for the last couple of weeks. Kobe plays off his man too much and doesnt even jump to contest jumpers now a days. Furthermore, we have poor balance in transition and other teams have been scoring numerous easy points due to this. We also tend to switch way too much and when we do, especially when its Kobe/Rad thats the one switching, they tend to play the man loosely, thus giving ample space for a good look at a corner or wing 3 or for a drive to the basket. Finally, after they drive, our low post defense on drives has been consistently worse. I do not if this is due to opponents forcing ‘Drew out the perimeter or due to poor defensive rotations, but its been plainly visible.

    That being said, we are still 18-3. Phil is also experimenting with the lineups which could lead to a diminished lack of feel on the defensive end, leading to occurences of lack of communication and thus poorer defense. Furthermore, I feel that some players (see: Kobe) are still getting into the game and not playing at max effectiveness or efficency. If we continue to play like the last 5 games for the rest of the season, then I would be worried. However, I fully expect the Lakers to improve and regain some efficency as we more forward.

  43. The complaining about defense is warranted. As has been noted, we aren’t playing defense at the level we were to begin the season. I think some of us were just hoping we could build on the start as the season went along…

    That said, it is a long season. The Lakers have showed that they’re among the elite of the league, and with that comes expectations. As Kurt has stressed, this team will only go as far as their defense takes them. It is a theme that I wholly buy into. We know our offense is there. Will we play good enough defense to beat a San An, or a Boston or a Cleveland? Right now, I have no idea…

    Our expectations have been raised by going to the finals last year. Fans always have to have something to gripe about. Our defense + Radman are our respective whipping boys.

  44. Last 6 games:

    4-2 record

    2 losses to teams playing sub-.500 ball

    Lakers’ point avg: 109.6
    Opponents’ point avg: 106.5

    A mere +3.1 difference.

    As Kwame a. pointed out, our defensive standing comes from the dominant play earlier in the season. That defense is long gone, and we’re playing .666 ball as of late. Right now, 106.5 ppg allowed would place the Lakers as third most points allowed in the league. Defense, anyone? On top of that, Kobe’s terrible gambles on defense (I’d love to see statistics on how often his attempt at a steal is successful and how often it leads to an opponent basket) and his less-than-effective shot selection, I’d say that offsets his end-of-the-game ‘heroics’. He’s basically putting the Lakers into the hole often times with his low percentage threes and contested long-range jump shots. And his ‘coasting’ is causing more tread on Pau’s tires. Pau has been playing non-stop since last season, and I’m afraid he’ll be burnt out well before playoff time. Issues!

  45. Thanks, KD, for making me feel a little better. But I still can’t help but be influenced by what I see. And the past few games, Bucks aside, the Lakers D has broken down a lot, with lots of dribble penetration and open shots.

    I’m certainly not in the chicken little camp, but I’m in the “mad at the defense and effort right now” camp. And frankly, the defense, hustle and decision-making has not been great, I don’t think anyone can argue that. This definitely does NOT doom us for the season.

    For one, several of our players are at a low point, all at the same time:
    - Ariza: still good, but cannot hit a layup or jumper to save his life
    - Farmar: I don’t remember the last time he hit a shot
    - Sasha: finally came alive last game
    - Odom: has been quiet, and also can’t buy a J
    - Kobe: see Lakers blog

    On top of that, effort is a problem you can do something about, and there is no way they will play as casually as they have so far, if Boston stands on the other side – if anything, they’ll have to control and tamp down their emotions.

  46. “the lakers are a very good offensive team”. truer words have rarely been spoken. defensively? effort’s starting to look like last year’s.

    i think kobe needs to set a much better example on the defensive end, similar to his role on the olympic team. quit the gambling and show your teammates how to lock down.

  47. I think it surprises me what an insecure place Laker fans seem to come from. That one game six loss in the Finals really warped people’s world view.

  48. Would you rather see the Lakers playing their hardest now and possibly get hurt? Or would you rather see the Lakers playing wicked tough at the end of the regular season and during the playoffs?

    We have been spoiled by the Lakers amazing start (82-0!). We have many changes from last year: Bynum starting and meshing with Pau, Ariza’s presence, Odom off the bench. The fact that we raced out of the gate was amazing, but we are still in the gelling period.

    Kobe has played a ton of ball in the last year, and he is taking some time off on defense. We can’t begrudge him that after winning the gold medal for the USA. I remain extremely excited about the season and our fantastic start (18-3 is nothing to scoff at).

    We are supposed to be enjoying it, right? Being disgusted by a win feels a bit harsh.

  49. 47-I think that the majority of people are not disgusted by Laker wins, but concerned about the prospects of the team winning a championship if they do not improve defense. I don’t think anyone can really disagree with that, can they? Most belive that this improvment will develop over the season, and that may happen, but we are not headed in the right direction. A quarter of the way through the season we shouldn’t be playing defense like we have been, period.

  50. Disgusted is certainly not a word I would use to describe a Laker victory, no matter how it came. A win is a win, and it’s far better than a loss.

    But at the same time, I think it’s okay to be frustrated, disappointed even, because we know what they are capable of, because they spoiled us to start off the season.

  51. This team has played together for 21 games, and as a group are still very young. It would be absolutely amazing if they were consistently playing at a very high level at this point. Give them a little time.

  52. 51-The youth of the team is precisely why it is important for the team as a whole to develop the right habits.

  53. The sky’s not falling but the Lakers’ intensity is. So long as Boston holds the title I will be a bit insecure about our boys but it doesn’t help to see the lack of defensive intensity. I’m writing this while watching Boston dismantle the Wiz and while we can take many things into account (injuries, their trade) the fact is that the Celtics, the team we have to measure ourselves against, is playing championship D. Their system is in place and bought into. You watch our boys and see a sloppy attitude and I don’t enjoy that. A win ay be a win, and a season is most fun when a championship is won but damn, I want to watch very good basketball being played. Good basketball requires the effort we saw to begin the season.

    Baring injury, I think we’ll be meeting the Cavs in the Finals. It comes down to defense and who has the best player. At this point the Cavs and Celtics have the two best defenses and the Cavs have the best player between those two teams. Just as others have said, if the intensity and communication raises itself to championship levels, I think we beat either of those two Eastern teams. If not, we’ll have a similar result to last season.

  54. as a fan, i just wanna see the lakers play solid, fundamental basketball. i don’t think people are worried, per se (just like phil), but at the same time i’m pretty sure none of us wants to see the team develop a pattern of inconsistent effort, getting away from the team game (both on offense and defense), and sleepwalking through games against the lesser teams in the league.

    obviously, there’s plenty of time left in the season, and phil usually doesn’t clamp down and pay attention to wins/losses until the second half. however, as a wise person once said: “Habits are cobwebs at first, chains at last.”

  55. I agree we shouldn’t panic, but disagree with Kurt that the games have been fun and nice to watch. The last couple of games have been really ugly.

  56. I wouldn’t say all the recent games have been fun to watch, although there are still things the Lakers are doing very well that are enjoyable. And nobody is disputing that this team needs to find its defensive identity again, it’s simply that mid-December is a little early to be saying this team can’t win a championship. We are a quarter of the way into the season. Who was the best team in the NFL a quarter into the season? The Cowboys. Nobody was going to stop them. Feel the same way now?

  57. The Celtics just blew out the Wiz by 34 in DC. I just hope we start making a habit of statement victories, even against the crummy teams.

  58. As much as a balanced view is appreciated and needed, this being December doesn’t change the urgency of the issues plaguing our team.

    18-3, but so what?

    We’re not the only ones trying to peak at the right time. If anything, it seems that we have peaked the earliest, since we have our best two players return from the Olympics in game-shape.

    Other teams have been plagued with injuries yet they’re only behind a couple games, and our meetings was with a lot of those teams at less than full strength.

    Moreover, just as a point in the first quarter counts as much as a point in the fourth, it is actually arguable that the early wins are a must since nobody has supposedly peaked.

    Also, the regular season, especially early, is a good time to build a reputation. With our roster, we won’t be sneaking up to anyone, so we might as well intimidate them. It’s one thing to face our defense knowing that there is constant offense behind it, and quite another to face our defense knowing that there’ll be enough a lapse for them to mount a comeback.

    It is NEVER too early to try and build good habits. If our team quits now, what makes you think they’ll be any different later? No amount of chicken little’ing will help you in April or May.

    Better worry now than later.

  59. The underlying premise to all this, of course, is that home court matters.

    It’s a whole different spiel if we’re just aiming to make the playoffs.

  60. Hey, the more we blow out teams, the more playing time Josh Powell gets! I don’t know about you guys, but I really like his game and I think he can be a solid contributor within a year if he gets the reps. Sweet stroke, hustle on defense and on the offensive boards. Plus, there’s always a chance we’ll get a DJ Mbenga or Sun Yue sighting (Even though he looks lost on offense and loses his man on defense, it’s still endearing in a deer-in-the-headlights kind of way). All the more reason we should be desiring more blowouts!

  61. Zephid,
    I liked your comment about Josh Powell. Also, if things don’t work out with Lamar this summer I bet Josh gets more run next year.

    Sorry, let me stay with this year. We are young and we will be up and down. The thing that bothers me is that we seem to be a bit down over a more extended time at present. Also, I think Kobe’s lack of defensive discipline is really starting to get to me. I don’t expect fabulous defense all the time, but I do expect him to stay with his man more closely.

  62. 18-3 is a great start. We’ve wavered some, but that is going to happen…to every team. I think there will be one game further down the road where an opposing team or player will do something rough, tough or intimidating and that is when we will see this team spark on the defensive end. The Christmas game would be nice, but it is one game. Let’s pay back the Queens tomorrow – enjoy this ride, this year with this team. We’re going to win a lot. It sure beats the Smush and Kwame days.

  63. I wouldn’t get caught up the either way in good starts or bad starts.

    Remember the 2005-06 Piston’s 36-5 record at the halfway mark?

    They ended up 64-18 and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat.

    We’re lucky to be fans of a team whose success is not measured by wins and losses, but the quality of their execution. Other teams are killing themselves just to secure a win, while the Lakers are busy trying to shape themselves into champions … and still winning games in the process.

  64. Lot’s of comments with different thoughts and ideas. You know, I really had fun yesterday (a ball) with the live blog, it was a great time to have here at FB&G. I am certainly enjoying the Journey this year, more than ever.

    To “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

  65. One thing I will promise is that we will be doing more live blogs down the line. Not sure if that will happen again during the holidays, we’ll see, but it will happen. Like I said, I’d like to do big games (sans Christmas Day, not going to sit at the computer and ignore my family) and some of those are coming up.

  66. Hey all, long-time reader/ first-time poster here. I was going to say something about the Laker’s current problems with their D but then I read this: http://www.basketballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=91 which pretty much says everything I wanted but much better than I could and with a nice graph to boot.

  67. Kurt – the live blogs were very cool and a lot of fun. Keep up the good work!

  68. My problem with the way the lakers are playing is that they are not putting the fear of God in anyone. Its gotten to a point that most teams feel they can beat the lakers on any given night meanwhile most teams ‘hope’ they can beat the celtics on any given night. The purpose of playing well and blowing out teams this early in the season for me is more for a psycological advantage.

  69. I am not that worried. I totally disagreed with Mark Jackson’s statement that someone needs to get in someone’s face about accountability, like Kevin Garnett so admirably(?) did to Glen Davis.

    I trust the coaching staff to use the regular season as a lab to figure out the sharpest knives in the drawer for the playoffs.

    That’s essentially what PJ laid down when he said this team wouldn’t get to 70 wins.

    Also, can we quit talking about Boston? They have to make it through the Cavaliers first.

  70. 66- Worthy J, thanks for linking that article, seems that is a good happy medium-take on the subject. I think a lotta people just want to see more effort put forth on D, especially from the teams leaders.

  71. I heard Kurt Rambis on the radio yesterday and he said that many of the Lakers are still too immature and unseasoned to keep themselves motivated and mentally focused to play an 82 game schedule at the highest level. Older players are better at holding each other accountable to team goals.

    He also said that coaches can only do so much to point out what the players are doing right and what they are doing wrong. It’s up to the players to apply what they are shown and taught in practice and keep themselves focused on a nightly basis.

  72. Worthy J. beat me to that. I had already made that part of the Lakers notes for the game preview going up today.

  73. Of course the Lakers are very good – no one is doubting that. However, just being very good isn’t enough to beat the Celts or hell, even the Cavs. So if you Laker fans are cool with a second consecutive Finals appearance without a ring, go ahead – this Laker team is absolutely A+.

  74. 73- Glad to see Celtic fans actually back into basketball, it was really sad to see Kobe getting MVP chants at the Garden, only one season before “Celtic Pride” kicked in. Your team is phenomonal, but I don’t really care about them, and the Lakers hopefully don’t either. If we are lucky enough to have a rematch, I gladly look forward to it, with Byunm and Ariza in tow.

  75. 73 – I think you’ll find that very few fans on this site are completely satisfied with how the Lakers are playing right now. The ones who are optimistic know that we’re only in mid-December and the Lakers are 18-3 without having played a single, complete game. It helps that PJ’s teams have historically peaked late in the season – I’m completely confident that the Laker team we’re seeing now will not be the same that we see come playoffs.

  76. I love how any fan of any team will call another team good and then say it won’t be good enough come an arbitrary part of the season.

    Every team must bring their best in order to win the title. They must also hope that their best is better than what their opponents bring in that Final moment or Championship series. Boston will need that same great performance to make the Finals and win that they gave and had last year. The Lakers will also need their best. So, I don’t care about very good in December, I care about the best in June. And that’s the reason that I’m not too upset with where we are as a team right now. Could we be playing better? Of course. And if the playoffs started next week, I’d have legitimate concerns. But this isn’t football season with 3 games left to play. This is the NBA and we aren’t even at the All-Star break yet. We haven’t even passed the trade deadline. There is so much season left to play that we litterally have 2 college length regular seasons left in our season. So far we’ve won 86% of our games…I’m cool with where we are.

  77. That’s funny. A Celtic fan warning us about the Cavs. Worry about them yourselves. They’re in your conference, and this time they have a season to play together, a better PG, and an even better LBJ. So while your brand new fandom makes you come here to talk trash about us seeing us lose in the Finals two years in a row, just make sure it’s your team that gets there.

    The Lakers were built from the ground up and our time is coming.

  78. Just saying:

    Rachel (NY): Who is the best team in the NBA right now – the Celts, Cavs or Lakers?

    SportsNation J.A. Adande: (3:32 PM ET ) Celtics. Especially with Cleveland slightly detoured with the injuries

  79. won’t….take…bait…

  80. kwame a.,

    I’m trying to not to either.

  81. Can’t make this stuff up:

    Derrick (Cleveland, Ohio): Would you rather see a Cavs Lakers finals or a Celtics Lakers finals? Which one do you think David Stern would prefer?

    SportsNation J.A. Adande: (3:44 PM ET ) Since we just had Lakers-Celtics, I’d like to see something new with Cavs-Lakers (which, of course, means Kobe and LeBron) …. Competitively, I think Lakers-Cavs would be better, too, because the way both teams are playing now the Celtics would take out the Lakers in 5.

  82. Safe to say, I (and I’m sure you guys) can’t wait until the Celts and Lakers hook up on national TV on Christmas day!

  83. man, if adande’s saying, 25% into the season, that the lakers are gonna lose in 5 games to the boston celtics if they meet in the finals, then it MUST be true. guys, we’re screwed…

  84. Sacramento preview up.

  85. As much as I love to see my team dominate the regular season, this Lakers team was built for one thing – a championship. So as long as the team isn’t playing champion-caliber ball, Lakers’ fans SHOULD be disgruntled.

  86. A lot of good stuff posted, and a couple of points:

    1. The Lakers need to play better on defense, need to defend 3s better, and right now are probably the third-best team in the league–not the best. Pointing that out is not being a “chicken little.”
    2. The Celtics, with Allen taking Posey’s minutes and Rondo steeping up his game a quite a bit, may actually be better than they were last year.

    That said, Darius’ points are well-taken, and it may be that the Celtics are peaking now. And the Lakers, with Ariza and Bynum, are obviously better as well.

    As Kurt said, we will learn something about the team tonight and we will learn something about them on 12/25. But by that reasoning, we also learned something about them in Game 6 of last year’s Finals.

    Still, I am optimistic. The Lakers are deeper and younger than the Celtics and adding and athletic 3 and 5 to a 57-25 Finals team is a huge deal.