Archives For February 2009

Like A Sun Burst Through The Clouds

Kurt —  February 3, 2009

LAKERS-KNICKS
Don’t things seem a little brighter today?

Sure, the Lakers are still going to be without Bynum for a few months. But yesterday at noon I felt like I lived in a gulag. Clouds darkened the sky, food was without taste, everything seemed like hard labor.

Today the sun has pierced the clouds. Hope has returned. There are a couple reasons for that

First, there was the slow realization that while this is not good for Bynum, this is totally different than last year. Rehab starts in a couple weeks, hard rehab gets underway in about a month. He should be back for the playoffs. Listen to the words of Bynum himself:

I was worried until we got the results of the MRI, obviously I didn’t want to miss the whole season because I just did that last year. After we got the results back they told me it was a pretty severe sprain but it’s better than anything else that could have happened. No surgery needed, I’m just going to rehab it and get back on the court…..

When you have a doctor tell you this is the best thing that could have happened to you, having seen the play, you get a little bit relieved, and he said no surgery, which was a little more of a relief.

The other thing was the reminder of just how special Kobe Bryant is, and how beautiful and fun the game can be. We shouldn’t need that reminder, but we Lakers fans have come to take the amazing as the expected from Bryant. We take is greatness for granted.

It takes the extraordinary — like dropping 61 in Madison Square Garden on the Knicks — to make us stop for a second again and really appreciate Kobe. Appreciate the footwork. The basketball intelligence. The Athleticism. The Passion. He is part of a select group that can elevate his game and the game to artistry.

Last night was also a reminder that even without Bynum, this team is still a contender. This is not the team that went to the Finals last year — this is the team that went to the Finals with Trevor Ariza added to the mix and a year of experience for the then-overwhelmed younger players. This team is very, very good. Can it beat Boston then Cleveland on the road this week? Who knows? Who knows if they could have won these two games on the road with Bynum? But right after the Bynum announcement I would have said they could not, with a night to sleep on it I can say maybe. And that gives me hope. And more importantly, my hope extends to whether or not they could beat those teams in a seven-game series.

I know, from the comments here and around the Lakers Nation, some Lakers fans have resigned themselves to the gulag. I just can’t be that guy. I would urge all of you to step into the sunshine and bathe in its warmth. Everything is not lost, far from it, there is so much fun and excitement ahead of us, so many amazing moments of great basketball and exciting series to come. The journey is the fun part. And we have no idea where that journey will end, but there is still hope and belief that it can end where we want.

Preview & Chat: The New York Knicks

Kurt —  February 2, 2009
Celebrities at Lakers v Knicks

Records: Lakers 37-9 (1st in the West) Knicks 21-25 (9th in the East, half a game out)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.2 (1st in league) Knicks 106.9 (17th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (6th in league) Knicks 108.9 (18th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Knicks Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, David Lee, Al Harrington, Jared Jeffries

Andrew Bynum Out 2-3 Months: He tore his MCL, which means he will be out two to three months, according to reports coming out now.

First, our thoughts have to go out to Drew, who must feel terrible right now. He is a young kid and this must be a blow to his psyche. I hope he bounces back.

This means he will be back sometime in April, the Lakers have games through April 14 so it would be nice to get Bynum back for a couple of those games before the end of the season rolling into the playoffs. But after last season, I think we all understand that Bynum time moves slower than regular time (a line borrowed from Timothy Varner at 48 Minutes of Hell).

Frankly, the Lakers can get through the first couple rounds without Drew but this cracks the door a little for San Antonio, and I certainly want him back for any potential Finals matchup. But all we can do now is wait, which is the hardest part someone once said.

Something to read for fun:I did an interview with basketball.org about the Lakers, and this blog. Check it out.

Also, just for the record, my favorite moment from the entire Super Bowl was when Bruce tried to do a slide on his knees up to a camera man on the side of the stage and just plowed into the guy.

The Knicks Coming In: Fun week for the Knicks: Lakers tonight, Cavs on Wednesday and Celtics on Friday.

The Knicks are playing well right now, having won seven of their last 10. David Lee has been the man leading the way — the guy D’Antoni didn’t think would fit his system at the start of the year is working out well. In the last 10 games he is averaging 19 points shooting 55% and is grabbing 14 boards a game. Al Harrington and Chris Duhon also have had big games recently.

The question on the Knicks going into this season was how much could Mike D’Antoni really get out of a mis-matched roster. Well, a fair amount, and Mike over at Knickerblogger is pretty happy with what D’Antoni has done:

Some, if not all, of you may not agree about the Knicks playing the best basketball they can play at the moment. I think they are because I can’t see any better production from this roster. Four of the nine players in the rotation – Harrington, Chandler, Richardson and Thomas – are all wildcards on any given night but overall they’re performing at the level I expect offensively. And with the Knicks already jumping up seven spots in defensive efficiency from last season, it’s doubtful that they make any more significant improvements before season’s end. Basically, I think this roster is maxed which is a compliment to Mike D’Antoni. He’s taken this roster to twenty wins and is one spot shy of the eighth seed in the East this early. Before the season, I didn’t think that was possible.

Keys To The Game: This is one game where being without Bynum will not be felt quite as much — not only are the Lakers still considerably longer than the Knicks in the front court but also Lamar Odom was a huge problem for the Knicks when these teams met in December. Having him start is not a bad thing.

Pound the ball inside. Not only are the Lakers taller, their front line is far more skilled than the Knicks. This is not a team going to go physical on the Lakers, so Gasol and Odom (and Kobe, Quinton can’t cover him) need to get the ball on the block and score easy buckets. Get to the line, get a team with a shallow bench in foul trouble.

Transition defense. Transition defense. Transition defense. Transition defense. Transition defense. Transition defense. Transition defense. I don’t think we can say this enough. Not only do the Knicks run you have to pick up a man in transition because they love the PUJIT. Gasol has to run with the Knicks bigs. Transition defense. Transition defense. Transition defense.

One way to slow fast breaking teams is to make them work and punish them on the offensive glass. With the Lakers height advantage they should be able to do this.

Where you can watch: 4:30 p.m.,, KCAL 9 here in Los Angeles and League Pass and the usual spots nationally.

UPDATE: Bynum has had the MRI, but results are not expected until later tonight according the all-knowing Mike Trudell at the official Lakers blog. (Should have asked him who was going to win the Super Bowl.)

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It’s a different knee than last year but it still was hard not to freak out a little when Bynum went down against Memphis (again, same as last year).

But after the game Bynum was actually putting some pressure on his leg, a very good sign. The words coming out of Bynum and the Laker locker room this season are a lot more optimistic than last year.

““It just felt like he hit me on the side of the leg. No pops, I didn’t hear any pops. Basically, it just hurt the inside of the knee. It’s much better than last year, last year I couldn’t put any pressure on it or walk or anything like that. I really don’t need this crutch, they just want me to keep the weight off (the knee). No pops, no giving. It sucks to be injured again, but I can walk … I have to be optimistic. I definitely want to return and get back to the things I was doing out there. I have no idea (about time of return), we have to wait for the MRI. It feels a little bit better from (before), but that might be because of the ice.”

In my mind, here are the two most important things for the Lakers to win the NBA title this year, IN ORDER:

1) Every key player is healthy.
2) Home court advantage.

The Lakers can overcome road games much easier than being without Bynum or another key cog, so what we want to see is him come back as soon as he can comfortably. The Lakers should not lose a lot of ground — the starting lineup they throw out now reached the NBA Finals last season. It’s not bad.

I’ll put any updates on Bynum at the top of this page.

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Who is everyone rooting for Sunday afternoon? If I were a betting man, I’d go with the under. As for the game, I’m torn — I like to root for the underdog, but as my wife has an affinity for the Steelers, that would be the smart place for me to place my allegiance. I’m open to suggestions here.