Archives For January 2009

The Curious Career of Glen Rice

Gatinho —  January 15, 2009
Michigan V Illinois

In 1989 Glen Rice entered the national basketball consciousness by scoring 31 points for the Michigan Wolverines in 1989 NCAA championship game. Rice and Rumeal Robinson would lead the Wolverines to an overtime victory of PJ Carlesimo’s Cinderella Seton Hall team.

The shot was pure. The rim was a prop. The net’s movement, or lack thereof, a testament to the release, rotation, splash; culminating in a textbook follow through pose.

Career TS% .551
Career FG% .472

Rice honed his shot by staying out late at the playground as a kid. His reasoning, if he could make it in the darkened shadows of the park, shooting in the lights of the gym would be nothing. He would learn what a shot felt like rather than relying on his sense of sight, almost as if shooting by wrote.

“He can definitely make three-pointers with his eyes closed, as he proved during warm-ups recently.”

He would be drafted by the sad sack Miami Heat and quickly bring them out of the doldrums, leading them to the Conference finals in his first season. But Miami would turn out to be the first stop in what can only be called a basketball Odyssey.

pawn 1 n. – a person used by others for their own purposes.

The trade from the Heat would be the beginning of a string of teams, including the Lakers, who would extract from Rice what they would before jettisoning him unceremoniously. But unlike some of his other stops, Miami and specifically Pat Riley would initiate him into the harsh realities of NBA player movement, and this would be one of the few times where Rice did little to earn his fate.

“Rice says Heat president and coach Pat Riley told him not to pay any attention to trade rumors—when Riley called to inform him that he had been dealt to Charlotte, “I was on my way to practice when I got the call,” Rice says. “I just went back inside, sat down on my living room floor and cried.”

But if Rice thought being lied to, followed by being traded away, was tough to swallow, his misery would soon enough subside because in Charlotte he would see the personal and statistical high point of his career.

“I’ve been in zones before where you feel like anything you put up is going in. This feels different. It doesn’t feel like something I’m going to come out of. It feels like this is the way it’s going to be.”

Rice had previously dazzled the league with his shooting prowess, but in Charlotte he would learn to keep defenders honest with drives to the rim. These forays often resulting in fouls, and one can imagine how well he shot freebies.

He would scratch the surface of superstar status on his third trip to the annual no-defense-scoring-fest known as the All-Star game. With 20 points in the third quarter and 24 in the half, both All-Star records, Rice would earn MVP honors and a momentary spot amongst the NBA’s elite.

Losing Eddie Jones

On March 3, 1999 Rice would traded to the Lakers for fan-favorite Eddie Jones and not-so-fan-favorite and over priced Shaq-back-up, Elden Campbell. Charlotte was willing to trade Rice, who had been holding out, but the trade’s finalization languished as Rice recovered from an elbow injury.

In the strike shortened season he would average 17.5 points a game, down five points from the previous season, but this was to be expected when transitioning from being the first option to the third. Rice played heavy minutes in the playoffs and produced good numbers, but he couldn’t help the Lakers avoid another playoff departure that was once again deemed too early for the talented crew that Jerry West had assembled.

Buss vs. West vs. Jackson

With the signing of Phil Jackson, Rice’s career and ego would take the hit that it never recovered from. Phil wanted to swap Rice for Pippen and there was also a rumor of a Latrell Sprwell trade. But Rice was to be a free agent at season’s end and David Falk was talking max deal, succesfully squashing both trades in the process.

Compounding the problem was the Lakers system. After years of having coaches run plays for Rice that had him coming off screens a la Reggie Miller, the Triangle would turn Rice into a standstill shooter and the numbers would drop further. The lack of defensive skills would become more glaring as the Lakers began their march to a title. But the trouble wouldn’t make its way into the paper until the most inopportune of times.

”Jackson has never wanted Glen, he’s always wanted somebody like Scottie Pippen, and this is his way of getting back at management for not letting him make a trade…Jackson did not get his way with the general manager or the owner about trading Glen, so who pays for it? Glen does. How many players would have stayed as quiet for as long as Glen has? But finally, when the team is affected, you have to say something,” she said. ”Now if it was me, I would have already been Latrell Sprewell II.” Asked about his wife’s comments, Rice said he agreed with them.
-June 14, 2000

As the 23 game grind that was the 2000 Laker postseason wore on, it became evident that Jackson valued Rick Fox’s defense over Rice’s offensive output. Rice would see his playing time dip 10 minutes from the previous postseason under interim-coach Rambis, and his scoring plummet to 12.5 points per game. And his performance in game 1, a 1-8 stinker where he played 24 minutes, made matters even worse. But knowing what we know about Phil Jackson, Rice would have needed to be perfect on the offensive end to make up for the abuse Jalen Rose was laying on him on the defensive end.

Rice would rebound in Game 2 by scoring 21 points, but it was in the aftermath of a Kobe-less game 3 loss (7 pts., 3-9) that would see the two headed monster of bad D and an inability to keep his, and bizarrely enough his wife’s, mouth shut that would initiate the basketball tragedy that marked the end of his career and relegate him to one trick pony status.

“Rice admitted he would not be 100 percent focused in Game 4 but said he would dedicate himself to addressing the deficiency in his game that Jackson said was the reason he removed Rice in favor of Fox in Game 3.

‘I’m going to come out and be very aggressive on the defensive end…If I get beat, I never claimed I was the best defensive player on this team individually. Jalen’s a great player, and when I get beat I expect the help to be there.’

That’s right, Rice said ‘when’ he gets beat.”

Mixed up in all of this was the growing feud of West and Jackson. Many onlookers were already thinking that the beginning of Jackson was the end of West. There was also West’s increasing anxiety, which forced him to feel barely measurable relief when the team won rather than any modicum of elation. There were promises from Buss to Rice about an extension, and West’s resistance to working for a man who could not keep a promise. There was the fact that the player didn’t want to be a hired gun and that’s seems to be all that the owner wanted, and he had no problem lying about it to keep that player happy during a championship run. Finally, there was Jackson marking his territory…

“I play whom I want to play when I want to play them, and how they play and what I think is best for the team. That’s it.”

Things Fall Apart

The Lakers would win a title and Rice would get a ring, but Jackson wouldn’t get his Pippen, and West would retire using Rice’s treatment as one of his reasons. Rice would be traded as a part of the monstrosity that was the four-team trade that sent Rice to the Knicks, Patrick Ewing to the Sonics, and Horace Grant to the Lakers.

And what were the Lakers looking for when they added Grant? Defense and rebounds.

Rick Fox would be the beneficiary of all of this. Becoming a starter by default, he would shed the 25 pounds he gained to try to be the banger the “soft” Lakers lacked and return to the form that saw him scoring 16 points a game as a Celtic.

We know what came next for the Lakers, but what became of Rice? In New York he became their sixth man. He was then traded to Rockets a year later. After a two-year stay in Houston he would be traded to the Jazz and bought out. He would wind up as a member of the Clippers, who waived him after 18 games.

“So foul and fair a day I have not seen.”
-MacBeth ActI.iii

An NCAA championship, 14 years in the league, traded 4 times, 6 teams, 3 All-Star games, and a ring. To travel from All-Star game MVP to publicly feuding with your coach in the midst of a Finals that would see you win a ring, and then to end your career as a journeyman bouncing from team to team.

No other way to say it: Curious.

-Gatinho aka Scott Thompson

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.