Archives For January 2009

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

Records: Lakers 30-6 (1st in West)  Spurs 24-12 (3rd in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.1 (2nd in league) Spurs 108.3 (11th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.8 (5th in league) Spurs 104.3 (6th in league) 

Projected  Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Spurs: Tony Parker, Roger Mason Jr., Michael Finley, Matt Bonner, Tim Duncan

Lakers Notes:  Just an entertaining game last night.  It was a hard fought and chippy effort from two teams that always play eachother tough, so the fact that the game came down to the final possesions is not a suprise.  There were, however some suprises.  VON WAFER!  Who knew?  Well, apparently The Kamenetzky Bros did…and have been on his bandwagon (for various reasons) since he was originally drafted by the Lakers.  Von’s always been a little bit of a character (love the haircut), so check out that little tribute to a guy we once had, but now is playing quite well for the undermanned Rockets.  As for a suprise from the Lakers, it was nice to see Lamar back in the lineup and doing the things that he can do that help this team win.  I was not expecting him to be back this soon, but was happy that he could come into the office with the team being a bit understaffed at the moment.  Kwame A. summed it up well in the comments:

What a difference Lamar Odom makes, the guy does a lot of stuff that helps a team win. Rotations on defense, attacking the basket, moving the ball from strong to weak, etc. The next time he runs somebody over, or steps in-bounds before throwing the ball in, give the guy a pass, cause we wouldn’t have won tonight without him.

Overall, last night might not have been our best game and we needed some Kobe heroics at the end, but that was a very good road win.  We played a motivated team that, while undermanned themselves, had some strong performances from (the afforementioned) Wafer, Carl Landry, and Yao.  I would have liked to have seen some different defensive strategies employed (O’ where have you gone, strong side zone?) but in the end I’ll take a win any way we can get one.  We’ve had lot’s of trouble on the first night of back to backs (four of our six losses have come in that type of game) and I’m happy that we could fly out of Houston with the victory.  Which leads us to tonight…

The Spurs Coming in:  The Spurs are currently playing some very good ball.  Sure, they’ve beaten up on some soft opponents and lost against Orlando in their last game, but overall they’re right where you’d expect them to be.  Currently sitting 3rd in the Western Conference (in a percentage tie with the Nuggets), they’ve battled through Ginobili’s early season recovery from surgery and Tony Parker’s high ankle sprain to prove that, once again, they are one of the elite teams in the West and a true contender for the title.  And speaking of the Spurs’ injuries, in some ways they have been a blessing in disguise for this team.  While Parker and Ginobili were out, other players stepped to the forefront and showed that they are capable of being contributors for this team.  First is the starter at SG, Roger Mason Jr.  Castoff from the Wizzards, Mason has proven to be a very reliable outside shooting threat (47% on threes) and has been a steady player (double digit scoring in two thirds of their games) for the Spurs.  Also benefitting from the absence of Parker and Ginobili is rookie George Hill.  We know Hill as the guy that our coaching staff was hoping would fall to us in the 2nd round of this past draft.  A guy we hoped could compete for backup PG minutes with Farmar.  The Spurs know him as a smooth and poised guard that can score in a variety of ways and a guy that will surely help them as a spark off the bench in some important games this season and in seasons to come.  From what I’ve seen of him, our coaches were right to want this kid and the Spurs are (once again) ahead of the curve in drafting players that can really contribute for them. 

However, eventhough these new faces have emerged, the Spurs are still built on the big three of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.  There aren’t enough superlatives to describe these guys, so I’m not going to on and on about them.  However, I will say that Tony Parker is quietly having another strong season.  He’s coming off a 31 point, 6 assist effort against the Magic and is averaging a cool 21 and 7 on the year.  I’ll also add that Tim Duncan is having a throwback type season.  His leadership when Paker and Ginobili were out was masterful and he continues to be the catalyst for this team.  His consistency has always been his trademark, but this season is a testament to this quality.  In 36 games, he’s had only  five games where he’s scored under 17 points and only nine games where he’s had less than 9 rebounds.  As for Manu, his minutes are down almost five a game, but the efficiency is still there.  He’s still got a PER over 21 and is still a threat from anywhere on the court.  More crafty than explosive at this point, he’s getting the job done night in and night out.

Keys to game:  Defensively:  As mentioned earlier the Spurs are still all about the Big 3 and any plan to beat this team starts with them.  Parker is the exact type of guard that gives the Lakers fits.  He will continuosly try to get to the rim and will test our rotations on penetration as well as our ability to recover to the perimeter when he drives and kicks out to shooters.  He’ll go to the P&R on ten straight possesions if he needs to and we must be disciplined in our defense or he will hurt us.  Per our normal strategy, we must try to make him a jumpshooter by going under screens and then trying to contest the jumper when does shoot.  If we chase him over the screen, the big man must be ready to show hard while also not letting Parker split the double and get into the lane.  If Parker shoots ten teardrops tonight, we have not done our job on defense.  Another big key to stopping the Spurs attack is trying to contain Duncan.  He’s taken a more active role in early offense this season and is getting more post up looks early in the clock.  We must fight him for position and play sound position defense.  I expect for Bynum to start out on Timmy and traditionally Andrew’s size and length has bothered him.  If young ‘Drew can stay out of foul trouble, it will go a long way in limiting Duncan’s effectiveness.  We must also be very aware of the three point line and recognizing where the Spurs shooters are.  San Antonio leads the league in Three Point FG % and there are many shooters to track.  We can’t give wide open, stand still looks to Finley, Bowen, Mason, Bonner, or Hill.  We’ll need hard close outs tonight and I’d like to see us run them off the 3 point line and make them create off the dribble instead.  Bowen and Bonner are especially less effective when they have to put the ball on the ground (and they’re also their best % shooters from deep) so it’s even more important to track them (Bowen will be in the corner and Bonner loves to Pick and Pop to the top of the key) and get them out of the places where they like to shoot from.

Offensively:  This is a team that, in the recent past, has had trouble containing Kobe.  Over the years and through their great battles, Kobe has learned to dissect Bruce Bowen’s defensive tendencies and really hurt the Spurs.  This was most evident in last years playoff series against San Antonio where Kobe shot 53% from the field and basically killed the Spurs.  He’ll have a different matchup tonight with Mason on him to start, but I would not be suprised to see Bowen get some extended minutes on Kobe.  As for our bigs, like last night, this will be a test.  Duncan is one of the best defenders of our generation and will likely hold down whoever he matches up with.  I would think that he’d battle Gasol, but Popovich may not want Bonner attempting to keep Andrew off the offensive glass.  So, I say, whoever Duncan doesn’t guard should be our main option on the block.  Obviously Gasol will get his touches regardless of who’s on him, but if the Spurs put Bonner on him he should be featured on offense on nearly every possesion.  If the Spurs put Bonner on Bynum, this should be another chance for ‘Drew to get it going on offense.  Andrew (despite last night’s effort) has been playing quite well on offense in the last several games and this could be another good night for him.  Also, we must move the ball from side to side and make the Spurs move on defense.  While their D is anchored by Duncan, they also start players whose calling card is not on that end of the court.  Parker, Bonner, and Finley can all be taken advantage of and are not the most instinctive defensive players.  If we run crisp sets and really move the ball, we will end up with open looks and we will score.

One final note:  This is the first meeting between the Lakers and the Spurs since we eliminated them from the Playoffs last season.  Think about how much we wanted to beat Boston when we saw them for the first time.  Now apply that same perspective to the Spurs mindset and that of their fan base towards us.  Not only do these franchises have a rich history and storied rivalry over the last ten years, but there are fresh wounds on their side.  So don’t be suprised at an even greater level of hate by their fans towards us tonight.  Expect there to be boos and expect Fisher to be a primary recipient.  If you don’t know why, maybe you forgot about thisIt’s apparent that they haven’t.  And then for old times sake, there’s always this.  So, expect a hard fought game and expect there to be a real home court advantage with the crowd going crazy. 

One final, final note:  For other thoughts on the game please go visit the excellent Spurs Blog 48 Minutes of Hell.  They’ve got a Q&A up with Kurt and will also be providing some updated posts with some solid insights on the Lakers/Spurs rivalry.

Where you can watch:  6:00 pm start here on the West Coast, the game is on KCAL 9.  Nationally, you’ll need league pass.  you can watch on ESPN.


Preview & Chat: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  January 13, 2009
Sports News - November 10, 2008

Records: Lakers 30-6 (1st in West) Rockets 24-15 (7th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.1 (2nd in league) Rockets 106.7 (KROQ)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.8 (5th in league) Rockets 103.4 (4th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rockets Rafer Alston, Von Wafer, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Yao Ming

About The West: Sure, the Lakers have looked like the best team in the West so far this season, but if you think it’s going to be easy getting out of the Western Conference you are in for a shock. It’s early, but if the playoffs started today Utah would be the eight seed. San Antonio as the two seed would get Houston. That’s tough.

Paging Hawkeye and Trapper John: This is the Lakers M*A*S*H* unit update.

Lamar Odom has said he’s not quite ready to play, although Phil says he feels a lot better. It should be noted here that coaches are really poor sources of information about how a player is recovering, they are always the last to know and find out from the trainer not the player. Odom played full-speed 3 on 3 in practice yesterday but may or may not go tonight. With Odom it is a matter of pain management, there is nothing structurally wrong it’s just the pain issue. He could be back tomorrow, or it could be a few more days.

Sasha Vujacic has back spasms, and the only thing that could make those hurt more is sitting on a plane. So, he’s sitting at home in the last report anyone has. Again, it is possible he could play tomorrow, but I wouldn’t bet on it. He likely will not be pissing of Houston fans tonight.

Luke Walton is still wearing a boot because, as Phil Jackson said, apparently bad feet run in his family. He’s not on the trip and may not play until next week or later.

Jordan Farmar is going through rehab after his surgery but don’t expect him for about a month.

The Rockets Coming In: The Lakers are not the only team battling the injury bug. The Rockets tonight are without Tracy McGrady (insert papier-mâché joke here) and Ron Artest.

We’re fortunate here at FB&G to have a Rockets fan as a regular reader, and Steven sent along these thoughts.

The Rockets are coming off a brutal stretch of 3 back-to-backs in 9 days, with a Toronto/Atlanta back-to-back at the beginning. Houston (23) and GS (24) have played the most road games in the NBA. As of end of Sunday, no other team in the West has played more than 19 road games. On the other hand, if the Rockets can stay in the middle of the pack thru the All-Star break, their Feb schedule sets them up for another good run.

Von Wafer has been starting for the past couple of games. Von Wafer has been STARTING for the Rockets the past couple of games! I think that sums up Houston’s injury problems. McGrady has almost no explosive finishing ability. He can get past his man, but can’t finish-his shot is getting blocked by everybody, and he’s getting stripped quite a bit also. Battier is finally back — we think — and the defense looked incredibly better with him in the line-up, but he is no scorer. Artest is likely gone for another week or so.

Alston has struggled w/his shot all season. Other than that he has been good defensively, and sets up the offense, but…

Brooks has exploded this year. His modest numbers don’t really show how much of an impact he has. When he’s on the court the offense has motion and energy. He can shoot 3s from way beyond the line and pushes the pace. He’s the only Rocket other than McGrady who can penetrate and dish. Almost the entire fan base wants Brooks to start. Adelman has had him finish several games recently. Looking thru the +/- figures, Brooks and McGrady work well together and Artest and Alston work well together. Brooks and Artest do not mesh well at all, which bodes ill as Artest is slated to come off the bench when everybody’s healthy.(The starting unit of McGrady, Battier, Scola and Yao has twice the +/- per minute rate w/Brooks rather than Alston. Small sample, but indicative.)

Yao gets amazingly few shots for a team w/a crippled corps of wing players. If he’s fronted, he disappears. He gets tired after 6-7 minutes of court time and his shot becomes very flat and he picks up silly fouls. He is completely refreshed after a short break.

The Rockets live by the 3 and die by the 3. Their guards get more shots rejected than any other four teams combined, simply astonishing.

There are no leapers on the Rockets. There is no height outside of Yao. Gasol and Bynum should dominate the glass. Landry has not shown the finishing explosiveness of last year but he has shown a nice 18-foot jumper.

Rick Adelman has been fielding some of the shortest lineups in NBA history. Hayes (6’6″,heh!), Landry(6’7″) and some combo of Head (6’3″), Wafer(6’5″, heh again), Alston(6’2″) and Brooks(5’9″).

Keys To The Game: With what is left of the Rocket roster, their offense looks a lot more like Rudy T.’s than Adelman’s — get the ball to the big man in the post and put a bunch of three point shooters around the arc. To defend that, the Lakers have to be cognizant of who is at the arc and close out on the shooters.

This should be a night for the Lakers big men to shine. First, it seems odd with this lineup but the Rockets are not a good rebounding team, the Lakers can and should dominate the glass.

Second, we need to see more of the high-low game from the Heat win, and other interior passing, from Gasol and Bynum tonight. If you let Yao Ming stand there, he is really hard to shoot over and around. But, he is not light on his feet, if you move the ball around in the post he cannot recover fast enough.

The Lakers starters should be able to run on the Rockets, whose guards are not great transition defenders.

These are Stevens’s thoughts:

This game I expect a huge game from Kobe and a modest Laker lead turning into a mini-blowout late 3Q,early 4Q. But unlike the first game where I knew a blowout was going to happen, this time I think there’s a chance for a Rocket win. I have a hard time seeing anybody on Lakers who can guard Brooks, the Rockets get hot from 3, Yao puts Bynum in foul trouble and Scola hustles himself into a 20pt game. Possible, but not the way to bet.

Where you can watch: 5:30 start here in Los Angeles, the game is on KCAL 9 and nationally on NBA TV.

Bakersfield News - December 30, 2008

There seems to be some consternation in Lakers land about the team giving up 100 points to a lot of teams. Even Mark Heisler got in on the act today.

This is what happens when you rely on points per game as your measure. Look at it this way: The Lakers average 95.2 possessions per game right now, fourth fastest pace in the league. If the Lakers play an averaged paced game against the worst offensive team in the NBA (right now the Clippers) and that team scored at its average, the Lakers would give up 95 points to the Clips and everyone would scream “how can you do that? terrible defense.” Every team in the NBA right now averages at least one point per possession, and the vast majority averaged well above that.

So, if you play at a fast pace, the other team scores more points because they get more shots. Pretty simple, really. And Phil Jackson gets it.

“This is the time of the season when you just fall in the rhythm of the games. Teams that are low possession, like a variety of teams we’ve played, you end up on a short end and scoring is low. We don’t try to be short possession, we try to have a high frequency, high possession game…

I kind of gave up on the notion that we are going to be a possession team and do that type of stuff early in December. It looks like this team has a rhythm they like to play at and you just have to let them. If you want to be a 90-point a game team, you have to shorten (the number of possessions). You lock the ball down, you play in the half court and your possessions go down.

We have a rhythm to our game and the players like to play at that rhythm, they score at a high frequency. We have to take on the personality of our team and play like that.”

Nobody in their right mind is saying the Lakers are playing perfect defense — to a man after the game they said they thought they could do better. That includes Radmanovic, who said he was bothered by some of his mistakes.

Despite all that, the Lakers are fifth in the NBA in defensive points per possession. In fourth is Houston, in sixth is San Antonio. Pretty good company.

• Kobe’s Beijing-style defense wore Wade down. Wade was 6 of 9 from the floor in the first half but 1 of 10 with Kobe on him in the second half (3 of 3 when Ariza had him).

• By the way, a win without three key rotation players and your two starts shooting a combined 9 for 29 while the other team has one of the five best players on the planet, I’ll take that any day. Style points in wins do not count extra in the standings, right now just give me wins.

• Phil Jackson was asked the key to the upcoming back-to-back in Texas (Houston then San Antonio):

“Win the first one.”

• I can live with the occasional defensive bonehead play from Radmanovic when he is shooting well and helping spread the floor on offense. He did that last night, and he made some good plays on defense too. It was a classically inconsistent performance from VladRad but his scoring was a boost. Particularly as the Heat put bodies in the paint to counter the Lakers size.

• I tried again to give Heroes a chance. But now, I officially give up and throw in the towel. Especially with Lost returning to the air, I just can’t see why I should keep watching it.

• Chi sent me a sneak look at the next Kobe Bryant shoe.

• I know we’ve got a lot of Cal and Bay Area people here — What are the Bears doing right? I have yet to catch a game of theirs, but the record is very impressive. Montgomery and Howland could grow into a real coaching duel, that would be fun.

• Anyone eaten at Bouchon in Vegas? Recommendations? I’m going in a few days.

• Kobe is one happy Eagles fan right now.

Preview & Chat: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  January 11, 2009

Records: Lakers 29-6 (1st in the West) Heat 19-16 (6th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.8 (2nd in league) Heat 105.6 (in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.0 (4th in league) Heat 105.6 (11th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Heat Mario Chalmers, D-Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony

Lakers notes: One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. The question is what you do with it.

Vladimir Radmanovic is not taking advantage of his. Here is what I think is the defining moment of Radman’s recent play: Less than one minute left in the Pacers game, Los Angeles had a three-point lead but Indiana had the ball. Defensive priority is simple — don’t give up a three. But when Travis Diener drove baseline on the right side of the floor, Vladimir Radmanovic on the left wing sagged down off hot-shooting Mike Dunleavy to the free throw line. Dunleavy got a wide-open look at a three, buried the shot and tied the game.

What Radmanovic is supposed to bring is shooting, but that has been spotty. In the last 10 games he is scoring 4.8 points per game, shooting 43%, and a pedestrian 33% from three. Luke Walton is missed, which is saying something.

The guy who is taking advantage of his minutes is Josh Powell. He is coming off the bench and providing solid minutes — rebounds when they are needed, shooting 50% in the last 10 games and added10 points against the Pacers. This is a quality role player, a professional, and rather than sulk because he was buried on a deep team he bided his time and has stepped up when asked. That matters.

Powell gets more time tonight, no Odom again.

The Heat Coming In: First things first — I like what I’ve seen out of Erik Spoelstra. This is a talented but small roster, and he has the team playing to its strengths. There are a lot of teams that are smaller than the Lakers, but the Heat have been the only team whose coach had the guts to front the Lakers bigs and try to force turnovers. Other games I’ve seen smart, gutsy calls from him. The Heat may have found something here.

In the last 10 games has been Wade, 31 points per contest and getting to the line 10 times a game. The book on him has never changed — force him to be a jump shooter, especially from deep, he is shooting just 17.9% from three in his last 10 — but keeping him from getting into the paint is next to impossible. He has one of the best first steps — and maybe the best last step — in the league.

Marion continues to play well, and the Heat have a find in Mario Chalmers. The one other guy to keep an eye on is Daequan Cook coming off the bench, he is second on the team in scoring in the last 10 games and last meeting with the Lakers he was +14 and was a force off the bench. The Lakers need to keep an eye on him.

Last time they met: The Heat slowed the game down, fronted the Lakers bigs (which caused huge problems because of poor ball rotation and led to 21 Laker turnovers) and that Wade guy dropped 35 as the Lakers lost 89-87. The Lakers also shot 52.6% from the free throw line in that game, which didn’t help.

Keys To The Game: Basketball and life is so much about correcting your mistakes. Lincoln trusted McClellan to do that during the Civil War and it cost the country tens of thousands of lives and years of war. Hopefully, that’s not the example the Lakers follow.

First, the Lakers must get the bigs involved — nobody is taller than 6-9 on the Heat front line. In the post Pau and Drew can dominate. If and when the Heat front the Lakers bigs in the post, the weak-side post must flash to the free throw line and create a high-low game that can expose the Heat (with Pau and the ball at the free throw line he can lob to Drew, attack the rim or just bury the jumper).

They cannot turn the ball over. The Heat are third in the league in forcing turnovers, they are aggressive and jump passing lanes. They are long, too. As the Pacers did to the Lakers, you can make them pay for that with ball and player movement on offense, but in the end you can’t cough it up.

Hit your free throws. While you’re at it, try not to foul too much, either.

Phil Jackson has hinted the Lakers may go with some zone tonight, an effort to pack it in a little and make sure Wade doesn’t beat them with lay-ups. That would be interesting.

Where you can watch: 6:30 start with Fox Sports and League Pass nationally.

Records: Lakers 28-6 (1st in the West Pacers 13-22 (13th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.8 (2nd in league) Pacers 105.9 (18th in League)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.0 (4th in league) Pacers 108.3 (18th in League)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pacers Jarrett Jack, Stephen Graham, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Roy Hibbert

Lakers notes: How much fun was it to watch Von Wafer beat the Celtics? The guy could always put the rock in the hole, I hope his game rounds out to the point he can stick in the league.

No Odom tonight, which is to be expected. We’ll see about Sunday night, where with Marion and Beasley coming to town (along with some guy named Wade) his length would sure be handy. Still, it’s January, nobody gets rushed back.

Non-hoop thoughts for a Friday: Thanks to Anthony for today’s photo, which is a picture of his father before the Hornets game. I’ll let you guess which one is his dad (hint: Anthony is not locked up in a padded cell).

I’m not going to be the 8 millionth blogger to call for a college football playoff, that point is beyond obvious now. What I’m saying is it can’t be a four-team, plus-one system. Do that this year and USC and Utah (the teams that looked best in their bowl games) would still have been on the sidelines as the fifth and sixth ranked teams in the nation in the final BCS poll. Got to be an eight-team playoff, even if that means cutting the regular season back to 11 games.

I’ve taken to rooting for Jamie on Top Chef this season.

The Pacers Coming In: TJ Ford appears to be out with a back strain tonight, although officially it is a game-time decision.

The good news for this team, also battling injuries, is that it gets Mike Dunleavy back. His first game was against the Suns, he should get a little more burn tonight.

The Pacers are one of those teams that plays a lot of close games, they just have been a bit unlucky. They’ve beaten the Lakers and Celtics (and Suns in dramatic fashion two nights ago) but lost some close ones they should have won. (Mike Dunleavy might have changed some of that.) Look at their Pythagorean winning percentage and they should be 15-20, which would have them one-game out of the eighth seed. All of which is to say, this team actually could make the playoffs in the East.

For more info on the Pacers, be sure to check out Indy Cornrows.

Last time they met: On Dec. 2 the Lakers blew a 15-point lead to start the fourth quarter — Farmar was forcing the play and causing turnovers, Bynum disappeared from the boards — and the Lakers lost 119-118 on a Troy Murphy tip at the buzzer.

It was a fast-paced game with 101 possessions. The Lakers struggled to contain TJ Ford, who had 21 points and was a game high +21. But what really killed the Lakers was a bad night on the glass — Indiana grabbed 36.5% of their missed shots, and that’s a lot of second chance points.

Keys To The Game: Just like last meeting, this game is going to be a track meet — these teams play at the third (Pacers) and fourth fastest tempos in the league. As always in these cases, transition defense will be the key to whatever team wins. In the Lakers case, this also means controlling the boards on both ends.

Also, the Lakers need to slow the pace a little when the starters are in. As it is virtually every night, the Lakers have an advantage in the paint with their bigs, they need to feed them the ball early. That will open up the perimeter.

This is an interesting game for Andrew Bynum match-up wise. Hibbert is a good offensive player — he has a variety of post moves, can finish with either hand and has a jumper out to 16 feet or so you have to respect. However, he is not a good defender. Bynum should be able to get some points in the post (providing the Lakers get it there) but he has to be focused on the defensive end. And he’s got to control the boards.

If Granger is going to take a three with the game on the line, you better get right in his face. Ask the Suns. And much like Gasol, it would be disgrace if he is left off the All Star team.

Final thing — with a team that wants to run you have to take care of the ball. Turnovers fuel them.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start, just about the time the Cavs are done beating the Celtics. Fox Sports in LA and League Pass nationally.

Lessons In Losing

Kurt —  January 8, 2009

Celebrities Attend Lakers vs Clippers Game
The NBA season is a long one, and every team has its ups and downs. In early December, the Lakers had one of their downs and much of the fanbase was freaking out., calling for trades and suggesting that there was just no way this team could win a title. Right now, the Celtics are in a down phase, and their fan base is freaking out, calling for personnel moves and suggesting that there was just no way this team could win a title.

To me, what has been different is how the coaches handled those streaks.

When the Lakers played like crap in December, Phil Jackson was coaching for April and May. He let them struggle, and while his placid style can drives fans nuts during a game against Sacramento, Phil knows it’s not about the Kings. A loss now can be a lesson learned as the team finds its own path. We all know from our lives, despite warnings from those in the know, sometimes we have to learn hard lessons for ourselves. And those are the lessons that stick. Phil puts out interesting lineups in the clutch in December seeing what worked and what didn’t. He tests players to help them and the team grow, and doing that means allowing them to fail. Coaches are competitive people, allowing a player and a team to fail is not in their nature, but Phil knows the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term gains.

There is no other coach in the league that has his eye on the big picture all season long like Phil, Greg Popovich could be the other. But those two guys have a lot of rings because they keep their eyes on the prize.

I’m not sure Doc Rivers can do that. Darius said it very well in the comments.

I think Doc (and this worked masterfully last season with a hungry group that had never reached the highest level) coaches to win every game and to maximize effort and production for every game. This goes hand in hand with KG, so for last year’s Celtics, I think this was exactly what was needed for them to win the title. It worked, so good on them. But now, this season, the Celtics are not as good, not as deep, and are coming off a 100+ game season where they played intense ball (or strived for it) every single night….and ultimately that same strategy is not going to work this season. Doc has to make adjustments, but with the makeup of his team (led by KG) I’m not sure if that’s even possible. They’re going to go hard every night, and that’s a tough thing to do when they’re in year two after a Finals win. Not because they don’t *want* to, but because it’s just a hard thing to do coming off the grind of a championship season.

Think back to the Lakers threepeat years earlier this decade. In those second and third title years, how truly impressive of a regular season team were we? How hard did we push for regular season dominance? The fact is we weren’t impressive or dominant in the regular season. In fact it was quite the opposite, we *flipped the switch* (as the pundits say) and dominated the playoffs (at least the majority of the series we played) and won multiple titles. Boston (and really Doc’s) goal should be to win the title. But he’s going to have to realize (and never being in this position before is going to hamper his ability to do so) that you can’t have a team play with maximized effort and energy for two straight seasons and 200+ games. Either he’ll learn or they’ll lose.

This is why I love our coach. People can complain about his style and the fact that he just sits there, but he wants his team to peak at the right time and he wants them to find their own path. How often does the General of the Army really go and give orders on the front line anyway? The soldiers, when in the heat of battle, need to know what to do on their own. He knows what he’s doing.

I like our army’s chances in June, in large part because of December.

Stanford v UCLA

Records: Lakers 27-6 (1st in the West) Warriors 10-26 (11th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.9 (2nd in league) Warriors 107.0 (14th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.1 (4th in league) Warriors 113.0 (30th of 30)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic (?), Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Warriors Jamal Crawford, Marco Belinelli, Corey Maggette, Brandan Jacobs, Andris Biedrins

Lakers notes: Interesting stat (double checked from the) comments: The Lakers are 4-4 on the front end of back-to-backs but 6-1 in the second game (heading into tonight).

In the middle of the third quarter last night, it was hard to fault what the Lakers were doing against the Hornets — a Kobecentric offense with a lot of threes was working. The fourth quarter, not as pretty, but it’s always that way when the shots that fell in one quarter dry up in the next.

To me, the bottom line is fairly clear — the Lakers offense just works best when Gasol and Bynum are getting more touches. To it’s credit, New Orleans made that hard last night with some of the better interior defense the Lakers have seen in a little while. Gasol had a rough first half. But the Lakers got hot on the perimeter in the third and when the game mattered the post was an afterthought. It can’t be that way night in and night out.

That said, I’m in the group not that worried about the loss last night. Pau Gasol did a decent job on West — the book on him is to push him out past 18 feet and if he does drive don’t let him go right and pull up. But last night West was hitting out beyond 20 feet and not turning the ball over when he put it on the floor. He’s good. Nights where guys like West and Chris Paul beat you because they are good happen.

Tonight is the kind of game, however, the Lakers can win.

Did you see what the Clippers did today: They traded a second round pick for Hassan Adams and cash. Then an hour or so later they waived Adams. They essentially traded a pick for cash (but have to pay Adams, which is what their sources said the cash is for).

What a franchise.

The Warriors Coming In: Speaking of franchises doing interesting things, check out this article on the Warriors and their franchise player (hat tip TrueHoop):

(Monta) Ellis is working to get back healthy, but he is not happy with the Warriors, it’s getting worse, and he definitely is not pleased about rejoining a Warriors universe that is ruled by Don Nelson and Robert Rowell….

I’ve said that I don’t think Ellis will ever play for the Warriors again. Now I’ve got to allow that it’s possible that he plays for them merely to boost his value and increase his leverage, all after informing the Warriors that he wants to be traded. Possible….

Ellis knows that Nelson wanted to trade him before the 2007 draft, straight up, for the rights to Acie Law.

Ellis sees a backcourt already stuffed with Jamal Crawford, Marco Belinelli, C.J. Watson, Kelenna Azubuike, Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson.

I believe that Ellis, like Al Harrington before him, is realizing that he doesn’t want to play for Nelson any more–he doesn’t want Belinelli and Crawford used as pawns against him, he doesn’t want to get caught up in this spiraling season as Nelson plays his mind games.

That is not a recipe for a wonderful comeback story, at least not for the Warriors.


Anyway, since the Lakers last saw the Warriors Corey Maggette is back, but now Stephan Jackson is out for a couple weeks. Maggette was hot in his game back, shooting 55% from the floor, getting to the line like 16 times and scoring 23 a game.

Biedrins also continues to play well.

Keys To The Game: I could just copy and paste this from the last game, because it remains the key —Discipline. The Warriors are not a disciplined team, but they can suck you into their game, and they will be gritty and fight you. If you are disciplined, you can force them into mistakes at both ends. The Lakers need to live by the old John Wooden mantra tonight: Be quick but don’t hurry.

That is especially true on the second night of a back-to-back, where bodies can get tired and minds get lazy.

Last meeting the Lakers dominated the glass, especially not giving up a lot of offensive boards. They need to do that again. The Warriors are very aggressive on the offensive glass and are eighth in the Association in the percentage of offensive rebounds grabbed.

The other key to beating the Warriors is not turning the ball over — give them easy buckets and they are tought to beat. They can score a lot if you are sloppy, and then you are in the track meet they want.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start here is Fox Sports in LA or the League Pass options nationally.

Odom Diagnosed With Bone Bruise

Kurt —  January 7, 2009
Esquire House Hollywood Hills

Here is the official medical statement from the Lakers:

Lakers forward Lamar Odom was examined today by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo and MRI results show that Odom has a bone bruise in his right knee. Odom will not play in tonight’s game in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors, and his status beyond that is listed as day-to-day.

There’s some very good news here — it is not structural damage, so no surgery. (With Odom a free agent after the season, that is huge for him.) On a lesser note, seeing what Odom wears on the sidelines for the next week or three also will be entertaining.

How long Odom is out depends on the severity of the bruise. Complicating the matter a little is this is the same knee where Odom battles tendonitis. It could be a week, it could be a month. (There are also severe bone bruises that don’t heal for months, but the way he got this injury doesn’t really look like that.)

Bone bruises are called periosteal. To quote the Sports Injury Blog: What happens in a bone bruise is a compressive force pushes the in on itself. When this happens the outer layer of the bone, which is fibrous, breaks down. This leads to leaking of fluid.

Here’s what I do know. First, bone bruises hurt like a son of a %&#$$. And, you can’t do a ton until they heal, it just takes time.

On the court, this is why Josh Powell is getting paid. He is a very solid, professional NBA player who is going to have to step in — he can’t do all the things Odom can, but he can be a solid four off the bench. And that should be enough most nights.

Nomuskles and others said it in the comments — for all those that think Lamar Odom is holding this team back, have scapegoated him for the Lakers problems, you are about to see just how much they need him. It started last night.