Thoughts From Two Losses

Kurt —  March 2, 2009
San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 5

Right about now, every game the Lakers play is a statement game. Not for the Lakers, but for whomever suits up against them. The Lakers are the measuring stick, the favorites out West, and teams that could possibly see them in the playoffs want to make a statement.

Denver wanted to make a statement and did it with a scheduled loss. I can see why Poppovich, when faced with the LA-to-Denver back-to-back, sat Duncan, Parker and Manu. He makes a statement to the league and gets his guys some rest. The Suns needed Sunday’s game for their ego — and credit their role guys who stepped up and had their best games.

The Lakers bench has lost its way a little, and I think we can see some of why (and what can go right) in a stretch that includes part of the third and the start of the fourth quarter from yesterday’s game.

4:25 3rd. 78-75 Suns: Derek Fisher is dribbling on the wing waiting for Kobe to get free but credit Matt Barnes for good denial defense that makes Fisher’s wishes moot. This is one point — the Suns role guys wanted this win bad, the Lakers role guys were lethargic, to use Kobe’s words. And it was both mental and physical laziness.

Back to the game: With six on the shot clock Fisher doesn’t even wait for the Josh Powell screen to set and goes away from it and into the lane, Grant Hill leaves Walton to get in Fisher’s path. Walton is now all alone in the corner while every other player from both teams is in the paint or within a step of it. Fisher though has his head down and shoots, and Hill rejects it then catches it.

Fisher drove past Barbosa to get into he lane and when Barbosa got burned rather than recover he just leaked out for a potential fast break. Since every Laker is in the paint or a step off the baseline, Hill’s lead pass is to a wide-open and alone Barbosa. The only question is if the Brazilian can dunk. Apparently not, but a lay-up still counts as two.

4:06 3rd, 80-75. Kobe and Gasol are the only Lakers playing well, so why not just go to those two in the pick and roll? This is what stars do; when everyone else is taking the night off they just try to take more on. The problem is, sometimes that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So P&R it is, Kobe makes a nice play using the screen then spinning off back behind it and attacking the rim. He drives the lane but both Shaq and Hill are there as help defenders and the result is a short shot and Kobe complaining to the ref.

The Suns are forced to run the half court set — this is what you want. After a few passes Barnes attacks off a Shaq pick, and Gasol shows out to stop the drive (it may have been a switch, but the communication was bad on defense). Meanwhile Shaq rolled into the lane, gets the feed from Barnes and goes up for the dunk. Powell did not rotate in time so he makes up for it by fouling. It’s a compounded mental mistake, missing a rotation then arm fouling the one guy you pretty much to tackle to make sure he doesn’t get the and-1. So Shaq gets the and-1.

3:24 3rd, 83-75. Kobe comes off the Gasol screen but this time gives it to Ariza, who is wide open for the catch-and-shoot. Instead, when Hill starts to come at him, Ariza does a fake jab step that gives him a little more room but not much, then he goes up. While he has worked on the shot and is much better at it, there are moments it is clear Ariza is still not comfortable as a jump shooter and that can lead to indecisiveness. Ariza should only shoot a three if he is insanely wide open. Otherwise, attack the rim. He is not Kobe, he doesn’t get to do jab-step pull-ups. He misses too many. He misses this one.

Kobe, picks up the rebound and uses his momentum to get to the basket, Shaq has to slide over and help and that leaves Gasol open, he gets a jump pass from Kobe and dunks. Again, those were the two Lakers that came to play.

3:12, 83-77: Shaq is out to set the wing screen for Barbosa, but he slips it and Gasol somehow loses track of a 7 foot, 300 pound man. Hard to do. Shaq gets the pass from Barbosa and quickly makes a great bounce pass to Louis Amundson (from here on out known as pony tail boy), who does his Kwame Brown imitation and drops the pass and creates a turnover.

The Lakers want to push the ball and Gasol races down court to get deep position. Credit Kobe for noticing and rewarding Gasol with the swift pass right on the money that allows Gasol to score easily.

2:53, 83-79: After a little play where the ball goes out of bounds off Powell, the Suns inbound to Hill about 15 feet out on the left baseline with Kobe right on him and Powell there for help. Trevor Ariza ball watches and turns his back on the best UCLA football player in the NBA (Barnes), who slides into a better spot, gets a pass from Hill and drains a three over the late-closing Ariza. The Lakers did this all night, just falling asleep on defensive assignments and losing track of their man.

Still, this is one of those things about the NBA, if Matt Barnes beats you draining threes, you live with that. He is shooting 33% this year, up from his career 32% number, so this is not his forte. You let him take it. Then again, when a guy is hot for the night, it’s time to adjust a little and not turn your back on him.

2:25, 86-79. Kobe/Gasol, this time Kobe goes away from the pick and takes Barnes and Shaq with him, and near the baseline he makes the rare jump skip-pass to Jordan Farmar, who has a wide open three, but he instantly makes the extra pass to Ariza in the corner. A guy shooting 35.7% from three passed up the wide-open three to get it to a guy shooting 32.6% for the season. Farmar needs to take that. Ponytail boy makes a nice closeout on Ariza, who puts the ball on the floor then off his foot out of bounds.

For fun, let’s skip ahead to the start of the fourth, where the Lakers make another little run. Pretend you saw a Flomax and Taco Bell commercial here.

12:00 4th, 91-81 Suns: Just to make everything I’ve said in this breakdown look bad, the Lakers work the ball around to Ariza at the three point line, who does the jab step then pulls back and goes for the corner three, and makes it. I think Kwame a. said it well in the comments:

Trevor, he needs to re-establish his minimalistic approach to offense. Lately he has been using his dribble for no apparent purpose and has been far to willing to fire up the 3 ball. I think he must make a concerted effort to attacking the rim, or moving the ball and cutting. This maximizes his abilities.

Then Darius added this:

I think what we’re seeing with the performance of Trevor has a lot to do with Bynum being out. It’s not so much that those two played so well together, but it’s the player groupings that Trevor now finds himself with. Trevor used to play almost all his minutes with Kobe, Odom, and usually Gasol. Now he’s playing less and less with those players and playing more and more with Sasha and Powell. Kobe and Gasol (and Odom somewhat) create shots for players. Sasha and Powell do not. Ariza is at his best when he’s cutting from the weakside and finishing at the rim. Now, more and more frequently no one is drawing the defense away from Trevor (or our other players) that enables them to play in more space or get the types of looks that they excel at. Getting Bynum back will help not only because of his production, but because it will reestablish our player rotations and put our old player groupings together.

11:30, 91-84. While Goran Dragic and ponytail boy run a rather sad two-man game on the perimeter, Robin Lopez sets up camp in the paint. Bad news for him, the ref was counting, so the three-second call and the turnover.

Sasha and Gasol play the two-man game and Sasha uses the screen to put up a three, that falls. Sasha took a lot of heat from Lakers fans in that game, but he was one of only three Lakers that was a + for the night (+2) and was 2-4 from three. And he hasn’t forgotten how to shoot, but he right now is not getting himself in position to take the shots he is good at. He hit this three off the dribble, but I would love to see his shooting stats when he is off the dribble versus spot up. I have a suspicion one is a lot higher than the other.

91-87, 11:06: Jordan Farmar does a good job stopping a screenless Dragic from driving, but Sasha cheated off Jared Dudley in the corner to be part of the not needed help. So Sasha left a guy shooting 40% from three since joining the Suns to help on Dragic? Another mental defensive error for the Lakers. Sasha did recover fairly well but it wasn’t enough.

94-87: 10:55: Farmar to Ariza early in the shot clock and Ariza just goes up with it from three, draining it over Barnes. Ariza is feeling it, but again is this the shot we want Ariza taking? Quick jump shots early in the clock against the Suns is a long-term disaster.

94-90: 10:44: The Suns try to run on a make, but Sasha and the helper Gasol did a good job in transition on Dudley, who misses and Ariza gets the board.

Ariza brings it up and gives it to Farmar, who is blowing by Dragic and into the heart of the lane, and the help comes from everywhere. Farmar sees it and gets it to Powell for a clean 18-foot jumper. That was good play all round from LA and makes it an 11-3 run.

94-92, 10:25: Dragic and Lopez with a little two-man game at the elbow — the fact those two guys are playing together is a sign of the kind of year the Suns have had — but the ball is kicked out to Barnes who misses the three. On the rebound, Dudley pushed off and got called for it, so Shaq comes in.

Gasol gets the ball on the right side, about 8 feet out, with Shaq on him, so he faces up and looks for an opening, but hesitates driving the lane. Instead he passes to Ariza, who hesitates until his defender gets there, so Ariza puts the ball on he floor and drives but pony tail boy stays with him and gets the block. More indecisiveness from Ariza, who seems to struggle at times with when to shoot and when to drive.

Ball out of bounds to the Lakers, and Pau thinks there is too much time on the shot clock so he lets a Sun player knock the ball out of his hand with just one second on the clock. That leads to an ugly running leaner from Sasha, who can’t be blamed for that miss because he had to shoot.

Ball into Shaq on the low block, and Ariza comes to help but from the baseline side. Darius talked about this in the comment — you do not want to double Shaq so that his move is to spin into the paint, where he prefers to shoot. You want to force him baseline (the 2000 version of Shaq could make you pay either way, the 2009 version is less a baseline threat and not as quick).

Despite the mistake, Shaq decides to pass out to the wing and repost and call for the ball. But apparently Barbosa does not believe in the repost and tries to got to work on Farmer, credit Jordan for sticking with him. So now Barbosa does go back to Shaq about three feet from the hoop. Now, 2000 Shaq would have dunked this, instead he goes for the three foot shot and a Powell comes in and blocks it.

On the break, Farmar misreads a passing lane and turns it over. Suns ball and shockingly Shaq is not running, so he is close to the basket and can get the pass and go up fast. Powell has no choice but to foul.

This is the free throws where nobody boxes out the shooter so when Shaq misses he takes a couple steps into the lane, grabs his own miss and dunks it with authority. At that point you knew it was over, or at least I did. The Lakers had stopped doing the little things, like putting a body on the free throw shooter.

A lot of the second unit’s confidence will come back with Bynum, putting the big man or Odom back in the second unit rotation. The confidence will start to come back because they will feel there are better half court options.

But that is still a month away, at least, and it would help if these guys could welcome Bynum back an already more cohesive and comfortable unit.

Kurt

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91 responses to Thoughts From Two Losses

  1. The Dude Abides March 2, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Brought forward from last thread:

    “After Shaquille O’Neal scored 45 against Toronto on Friday, Raptors star Chris Bosh said O’Neal had benefited from officials ignoring his three-second lane violations. ‘I heard what Chris Bosh said, and that’s strong words coming from the RuPaul of big men,’ O’Neal said.”
    /pwned

  2. I attribute yesterday’s game more to fired-up Shaq, a Suns team fighting for its life, and the fact that the Lakers miss Bynum than to execution issues.

    A couple of people talked about trading Radmanovich on the other thread, but I would question the Mihm deal more at this point. The Lakers are basically platying without a true 5 right now.

  3. The Dude Abides March 2, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    2. Mihm’s worthless. Both he and Mbenga commit unforced turnovers, but Mbenga can catch and dunk in traffic while Mihm cannot. Meanwhile, Mbenga is much better at defending the rim. The refs were generous to Shaq yesterday on his rolling jump hooks in the middle of the lane while DJ was guarding him. He pushed off with his left arm both times and got away with it. Otherwise, those shots would have been blocked. That’s not why the team lost, though. Failure to block out on missed FTs cost us four points, and bad defense at the very end of the 2nd and 3rd quarters cost us four more.

  4. Robinred-I don’t think Mihm is that much of a difference than Mbenga at this point. 2005 Mihm would be great to have right now, but 2009 Mihm is not an effective NBA player any longer, even off the bench for 10-15 mins.

    One thing that I am concerned about is D-Fish and his shot. It is kind of reminicent of last year when he got off to a great start, kind of leveled off in the middle of the season and struggled late. I fully trust Fish to be productive in crunch time and play hard-nosed defense, but he was really giving us a boost earlier in the year with his early offense. We need him to be a weapon and that is why it is so important that Jordan (or Sasha) be able to EFFECTIVLEY spell Fish so Fish only plays about 28-30 minutes a game. If not, he may be too tired when we really need him. Its a delicate balance for Sasha and Jordan because both guys are confident dudes and this has translated into them feeling confident in their abilities and a willingess to take some questionable shots and passess. The coaching staff has to find a way to encourage them to play with confidence, but more importantly to play smart and efficiently. These next two games should help with that process, but they must be able to translate that on the road (like they have shown already this season, i.e. at the Cavs).

  5. Kwame,
    Again I agree with you 100%. I completely agree with finding a rotation that works for our Guards. I’m not as concerned about Fish, though. I just took a look at his game logs and saw that he’s been playing well, although a little less consistent than normal. He’s had two straight poor games, but when you look at his monthly splits his February production is right in line with his numbers from October, November, and January (his numbers were up in December because of Farmar’s injury).

    I am concerned though with Farmar and Sasha and the point you’ve made before about them not playing as well together. You’re spot on that Sasha’s numbers were best when Jordan was injured and I’m wondering how Sasha can get on track with the consistency that he showed last season. One thing I can say about this whole situation that I also feel is affecting Sasha is Ariza. Again not that these guys have issues with eachother, but their roles on the team are in direct competition. First, unlike Sasha, Ariza has tremendous chemistry with Farmar. Those guys look for each other constantly and usually hook up for one highlight play per game (as a matter of fact, that turnover the Kurt illustrated in the body of this post was Farmar looking for a slightly trailing Ariza). Second, Ariza is now our closer at SF. Last season, that was Sasha’s role (not at SF, but at SG with Kobe playing SF). Now, it’s really rare for Sasha to close a game. Phil has seemingly decided that Ariza’s contributions on defense and decent shooting trump Sasha’s decent defense and (supposed) stronger shooting. Although with Sasha shooting so poorly this season, you really can’t blame Phil for going this route.

    Anyways, this was just a roundabout way of me saying that I’d really like for Sasha to go all Angela Basset and get his groove back.

  6. “Robinred-I don’t think Mihm is that much of a difference than Mbenga at this point. 2005 Mihm would be great to have right now, but 2009 Mihm is not an effective NBA player any longer, even off the bench for 10-15 mins. ”

    ***

    You may be right. But they are playing without a 5, and that will catch up to a team sometimes. I was certainly in favor of cutting salary ibligations in many respects, but there is a downside.

    As to the FTs, I was around in the days when other teams’ fans, particularly Sacto fans, said the same things about the Diesel. Two things to always keep in mind with the zebras:

    1) Stars will get calls.
    2) The team that plays more assertively will get calls.

  7. “obligations”

  8. I know often times when people complain about the refs, it’s more the case of it’s easy to blame someone else for the team not doing the little things it needs to do to win.

    But unlike most other sports, the NBA does have a serious problem with the lack of fair play. We joke about the apparent rigging of the All-Star MVP, but it goes deeper than that and we all see it.

    Superstars get calls that regular players don’t. Rookies can’t go near a star without being called for something, yet LeBron travels at will and nary is whistle is heard. Shaq gets away with 3-second violations and offensive fouls; always has, always will. I could go on for hours.

    The same applies to the home court. Watch how differently games are called in one venue vs. another. Utah is a great example: in SLC, the Jazz play phsyical and the crowd feeds into it, and the refs too often swallow their whistles. The Jazz do the same thing on the road, and they don’t get the same calls. No one can tell me that Boston didn’t benefit from a huge case of the refs’ home cooking in Game 2 of the Finals last year. D-Wade spent the entire Finals at the free throw line while NBA black sheep Mark Cuban fumed. The Lakers got calls vs. the Kings in 2002, Jordan got calls his entire career, and on and on it goes.

    Over time, these things tend to even out, perhaps even skew in the Lakers favor given their stars and status as a marquee franchise. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room every NBA wants to ignore, but we all know there’s more that determines a game than simply what the players do on the floor.

    It’s bigger than Tim Donaghy, which was why so many fans were quick to believe that he could get away with what he’d done for so long.

    As a fan, I just try to ignore the uneven elements and appreciate the players and the game itself. But those who say, “The refs’ or league’s biases are never a factor” are either blind or overly naive.

  9. I really wish we would get of the ‘officials are bad’ bandwagon. Not only is it a loser’s mentality, but when the officials are bad all team suffer. I do agree that the NBA officials are not the best officials in professional sports, but this is not likely to change during this economic downturn, so let’s just drop the whole thing.

    The Lakers lost because our role players all took the day off at the same time. In an earlier post the role players were defined as being players who couldn’t ‘do their thing’ consistently, every game. I definitely include Lamar in the category of a role player because his game is so inconsistent over the season.

    Lamar takes himself out of games because of two or three boneheaded plays most games. He wasn’t lost in this game because the officials ‘took him out’.

  10. Another play, I think it was in the third quarter when Odom was out on the 3 on 2 break, with Walton on the wing. You saw Odom sprint to get a layup, like he usually is oblivious and predictable in his angles, and Grant Hill coming over for an easy block. What was horribly depressing was that Walton on the top of your screen, as soon as the turnover was committed, jogging mildly on the break. Had he sprinted, Hill would have been drawn to guard him and Odom would have had an extra step for the layup or a dish to Walton for the easy finish. Run on fast breaks? What a novel concept. This was reminiscent of the lack of effort all night.

    Darius, on our discussion on shot selection – I find bad or even OK shots with more than 14 seconds left on the clock to be inexcusable, regardless of who the shooter is. Kobe and Fish, let alone Sasha and Ariza, should not be taking 25 footers with that much time left on the clock. I don’t think that’s acceptable just because it’s Kobe Bryant with his God complex. It might win him glory, but not games. I guess at times I wish we would play slower. When we execute our offense we always get good shots. I don’t mind a couple heat checks every now and then, but in that game Kobe and Fish repeatedly took bad shots when the rhythm was not in our favor. These were shortcuts. Basketball is not a game of scoring, it is a game of scoring more than your opponents. A 85-70 win is just as good as a 115-100 win. And we’re the type of team that can play both up-tempo as well as methodically.

  11. I am more concerend that the Cavs have caught us in the loss column than the actual nature of these losses. I would love to see the Lakers finish the season 19-3 to get the same 67 victories that we had in 2000, clinching home court throughout and starting another great run.

    A couple of cupcakes in Minnesota and Memphis will hopefully get the bench rolling in time for some tough road games against Portland, Houston and San Anotonio.

    38 shots was an awful lot, but you can’t blame Kobe given the inability of anyone else (besides Pau) to score.

    Just a side note; LeBron versus Wade starts in three hours. Hopefully Wade can put up some big numbers and widen the gap between the Cavs and Lakers.

  12. j.d. Hastings March 2, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Well the team now has 2 games against 2 NBA teams named after creatures you might meet in a dark forest to. Because basketball is a game primarily played indoors or on a asphault court that is most likely nowhere near a dark forest, these teams are destined to be terrible (The bobcats are in the same boat, but we don’t play them this week).

    So the team has 2 games to try to work out what’s ailing them. Then its 4 games against Western Playoff foes. Those games are going to be vital to maintaining our actual and mental edge over this conference. Playing like we have recently, none of these teams will fear us.

  13. 14) Don
    “I find bad or even OK shots with more than 14 seconds left on the clock to be inexcusable, regardless of who the shooter is.”

    They should be going to Pau virtually every time they have the ball in the half-court offense, until the opponents adjust. He is an exceptional AND willing passer, and usually doesn’t take too long to figure out what to do if he has the ball (one difference between him and Bynum at this stage of Bynum’s career). With him shooting as well as he is, he is a better option than Kobe trying to initiate something off the dribble. Let Kobe and Lamar move without the ball, and Fisher spot up, and Pau will find them if it is a better option than him taking a shot.

  14. Remember how a two or three seasons ago, back when the Lakers were getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs? When those Lakers teams would beat a championship contender like the Spurs or the Heat or the Pistons, we’d say “that shows us the Lakers can be contenders!”. Remember that? Well that’s how those other teams feel now when they beat the Lakers. Sure feels good to be on the other side, that’s all I have to say about that.

  15. You chose to post “Chris J’s” officiating rant, but not mine?

    Interesting…

  16. 15. I also deleted a number of responses to your comment pointing out how silly it was.

  17. for me it’s gotta be the hair.
    Sasha, spends too much time ‘adjusting’ his loose hairs into his ‘whatever style that is’ headband.
    he needs to worry less about his looks, his hair, and being cool.
    he needs to worry more about hitting his shots, playing super aggressive D, and learning a few different options on the offensive side of things.
    me thinks he should just CUT his hair…all of it, shave it if necessary, then he won’t be distracted or worried about being/looking cool.
    just play damn it!

  18. Three quickie observations. One is that the Lakers are so successful when they punch the ball into Pau and work through that, yet inexplicably, they go away from it, which is maddening. Credit the Suns for showing discipline, repeatedly working inside to Shaq, and letting good things come from that.

    Two is that the Lakers non-stars tend to echo Lamar. When he is confident, aggressive and nailing his opps, they tend to bring their A games.

    When he is doing boneheaded things and being tentative, they follow his lead. It’s almost like this season, Pau has joined Kobe as “money,” Fisher is Fisher (mostly really good, but more anchor than star) and then there’s Lamar/bench. That dynamic changes with Bynum a bit, but definitely as others have noted, a bit of an identity crisis going on right now.

    Three, for such a tall/long team, the Lakers too often play small, especially on boards/box outs, but also in aforementioned Pau reference, failing to push the ball inside, and work the inside/out game.

    Candidly, I wouldn’t care so much, as this is time of year for fatigue to kick in, but Lakers have a lot of road games left, and home court through playoffs probably won’t allow many more mini-bad streaks like this.

    Cheers,

    Mark

  19. Could anyone enlighten me why the Lakers are not in the running for either Joe Smith or Drew Gooden now that they have cleared their respective teams?

    Articles I read suggest they won’t see a lot of playing time in LA and then suggest that other contenders (Cleveland and San Antonio) are set to bag either of them. Is that really so? Are we that really set (the Pau-LO-Powell-Mbenga rotation barring anything prolonging Drew’s return) after getting abused inside and seeing Pau stretch his minutes? Okay, that sounds like a fan in panic but come to think of it, I mean these are low-risk, low-cost acquisitions that we have been so drawn back from taking. We can get a veteran center for this.

    I hope lack of personnel (which is not the case) or the ability to compete of other teams (which is catching up with our so-called dominance) do not become a hindering factor from the trophy.

    But then, maybe another panicky fan. Great posts guys and great breakdown Kurt. GO LAKERS!

  20. Don W,
    Very good point and well said. I too would like more patience and (as exhelodrvr pointed out) an effort to establish to post on almost every trip down the court (whether that’s by Pau or by Kobe). The Triangle *is* an offense that is dictated off ball and player movement and most of that movement *is* initiated off a post-entry. So even if we’re not passing into the post to score, we should be going into the block just to free up cutters and to also play inside out.

    My half-hearted devil’s advocate response to your comment, though, is this: players need to not only play to their strengths, but they need to play within their talent level (these two are related, but not correlated completely). So, while I’d love to see Kobe not take so many deep bombs early in the clock, I also think that he’s a player that can make that shot. Is it his best shot? No. But it is a weapon in his arsenal. And when used within the context of him setting up other parts of that arsenal it can be quite effective (not only because the shot goes in, but because it can free up his first step to get a better shot by making the defender honor that.). I mean, I’ve seen Kobe use that shot quite effectively to, later in the game, use a hesitation dribble at that same spot on the court to drive to the basket or get an open mid-range jumper. Like I said earlier, I’m with you, but Kobe is a thinker and he’s constantly using every facet of his game to set up the next move. As for Fisher, he’s a very good deep shooter, and when he’s open it’s a good reason to shoot. Being open can happen off ball reversals, off penetrations and kick outs, off passes out of deep post positions or double teams, or by dribbling up court and realizing that no one is guarding you. So, for Fish, I like him taking open jumpers (but I do agree that I’d rather see him take those open jumpers off all those previous scenarios before he takes the dribble up court and shoot before someone starts to guard me option). Like I said, it’s a half-hearted devil’s advocate defense…

  21. 19-I think 1) the Lakers usually don’t make mid-season aquistions (except Pau Gasol) because the triangle is a tough offense to pick up mid-season, 2) the Lakers are not trying to add any payroll and 3) the Lakers probably think they are fine as constituted.

  22. -15… My prior comments were in response to your prior complaint about the officiating in Phoenix. The first sentence noted as much, though Kurt edited it out and let the rest of my remarks stand or fall on their own merit.

    I didn’t see Sunday’s game and won’t say one way or another if the refs were good or bad that day. My remarks were more that the refs are a factor in every game, and some times they lean your way and others they’ll lean against you.

    It sucks, but that’s the NBA and we’ve got to live with it being that way.

  23. I think Kwame a. nailed it.

    Anyone who walks into this offense is likely to struggle at first. Pau was the exception because he grew up playing a more motion-style offense. So let’s say the Lakers sign Gooden (jus to pick one): Whoever they sign will cost double because of the luxury tax. And that guy will come in and take about a month to really adjust and steal most of Powell’s minutes.

    Then Bynum comes back, the playoffs come and the rotations tighten. And then how much are you paying a guy to sit on the bench all but eight minutes a game?

    I understand a lot of people are freaking out over HCA right now, but the answer is not to bring in another body at this point. Unless that body is Scotty Pippen’s circa 1995.

  24. For those worrying about HCA, do you really think Cleveland will beat Boston in a 7 game series? It’s possible, given that LeBron can almost will a game to a win, but keep in mind that Cle or Bos would have to have ONE LESS LOSS than us to have this (assuming we win the West and one of them wins the East) because we own the first tiebraker (going 2-0 against them) if we finish with identical records. The team looks tired and has 10 of the next 14 away from home…but also has 3 stretchs of 2 days off between games in the next 2 weeks. As far as the Sasha/Farmar/Ariza productivity thing goes, keep in mind that these players only average around 6-8 shots per game (at best). If they hit 4-5 of them, it’s a good night. When they don’t, our bench looks lean. That said, these games are only going to be to our advantage come playoff time. We’ve been receiving other team’s best efforts since Christmas and we’ve faired well. And we still have the best record in the league and the best road winning record, too. Phil and the staff will have this team where it needs to be come April, May and June.

  25. Even if we did, they aren’t eligible for the playoffs, right? Thought that deadline was march 1st, hence all the Marbury thing.

    The thing with our Lakers is that it’s Kobe’s team. PJ is giving Kobe the MJ/Shaq treatment, and everyone else has to deal. Pippen was kinda special in that he accepted the second fiddle (maybe it was MJ’s ‘leadership’ that factored in too) but obviously Kobe didn’t really like being 2nd, and I’m not sure how Gasol/Bynum will handle it after this season, especially if we fail to get the championship.

    I think the most reasonable approach (or rather, most reasonable strategy we’re going to see) would be to work off Gasol and Bynum in the first three quarters (and hope they showed up, which normally happens thankfully) then get Kobe his moments in the limelight in the 4th.

    As for the two losses and the implications it has in our quest for HCA, I don’t worry about it much if it’s the Cavs with the best record. That’s a team we can beat regardless of venue. Celtics with Marbury behaving is something else, tho.

  26. For the rest of the season the only objective should be to find that one role player that can close out games.

    A role player that can close a game can play tough D without leaving a three point shooter open to contest in the paint. The other criteria is to hit the occasional open look when our stars are receiving the brunt of the attention.

    Whether that player is Lamar, Sasha, Ariza, or Farmar I hope they get the picture that without 1-2 role players stepping up we can’t win in the playoffs. That is considering Kobe and Pau have a decent game. In the case they don’t everyone needs to be contributing, which is not very plausible.

  27. I fail to see how Drew Gooden or Joe Smith are better than Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga. All 4 of them can shoot from 15-18 feet, all four of them chase after boards, all 4 of them play solid defense. Add to that the learning curve of the triangle, luxury tax implications, and the chemistry problems of taking someone’s minutes mid-season, and there is no logical reason whatsoever to go after Gooden or Smith.

    Our upcoming schedule is not so difficult, barring the 6 game road trip, although most of those teams are cupcakes. This will be a good time to get our team on track, all-cylinders running smoothly, just in time to peak right as the playoffs get into gear.

  28. This team was fine without Bynum both last year and this year, so why should it take him coming back? It was an absolute attrocious error in judgment to trade Vladmir and Mihm, putting way too much faith in Mbenga, Walton and Sasha all worthless non-athletes without any offensive abilities.

    Dont hold your breath on that I expect him to be out for the season.

  29. Gooden is the rebounder i think we need. Powell is good but he is short compared to the rest of the PFs. Gooden is a guy who can take the Duncan the West the Garnett and he can take some pressure off Pau in the middle. Also i think we should sign him just so that the other contenders won’t sign him.

  30. 16. Kurt

    Oy vey…I realize the subject of officiating is the proverbial dead horse (or an 8000 pound, pink elephant, depending on your perspective), but that doesn’t make it any less true.

    I almost find it worse to cover our eyes and plug our ears and pretend it’s not happening, because we love the sport and we don’t want to think of it as corrupt.

    Should we ignore the fact that any time we see Bennett Salvatore presiding over a game, when the Lakers on the road, that we get a knot in our stomach and sinking “uh oh” feeling?

    Conversely, should we pretend that when we Salvatore at a Laker home game we don’t breath a secret sigh of relief (afterall, he was the one who jobed the Suns in Game 4 of that 2006 series – fair is fair)?

    However, if we’re going to limit the discussion to only ways the Lakers can improve in their actual basketball playing, I would add this:

    1) You nailed it – the second unit needs either Lamar Odom or Luke Walton – otherwise, they’re rudderless. Sasha and Farmar are a bad back-court combo because both of them look for their own shot first.

    2) I don’t have a problem with Kobe lauching one or two of those ridiculous, 30 foot three pointers in the 4th quarter, because I’ve seen him make them, and when he does, it’s psychologically deflating for the opposing team, and can give the Lakers momentum (however, if he misses the first two he takes, I’m not cool with him continuing to lauch them).

    3) Sasha needs to play on a unit with Kobe and Fish to have success, because both of them contribute to successful offensive scenarios for him: Fish draws attention by being a legit outside shooting threat (unlike Farmar or Ariza), and Kobe actually understands the proper way to drive and kick to three point shooters. So many times when Farmar tries to drive and kick, he either passes it too soon, or too late, leading to a contested shot.

    4) Josh Powell is a useful, but limited player. He’s an excellent spot-up shooter, so he is very effective in pick-and-pop and kick-out situations – none of the guys on the second unit seem to be able to do either of those things effectively, so we’re left with Powell hustling around the rim and getting his shot blocked because he’s undersized.

    5) Pau is a cerebral passer who understands the cuts offensive players should be making, and when to pass it to them. The problem is, none of the guys on the second unit knows how to make good cuts, so Pau is often left hanging, waiting for the cutter that never comes (Ariza was making good cuts at the beginning of the season, but it seems he’s fallen a little too in love the perimeter, lately). A true “creator,” like Odom, is probably better suited for the second unit (which you mention).

    It seems to me the second unit would be more effective if Phil swapped the Farmar/Sasha/Ariza/Powell/Pau unit with Farmar/Sasha/Ariza/Odom/Mbenga

    You add Odom’s “creating” ability, and you still keep your size with Mbenga.

    Whether Mbenga can stay on the court without fouling out is another matter…

  31. What is with the sudden Chicken Little feeling around here? Jesus people, we lost two games and we still have the best record in the league. But suddenly Sasha is a D-Leaguer and we should look outside for help (even though that help is at best marginally better than what we have in house) and OMG the sky is falling the sky is falling. And it’s falling because of the refs.

    People, step back and look at the big picture. This team is one of three serious title contenders and two losses in March don’t change that. I don’t expect all rainbows and puppies around here, but the negativity without any backup has got me close to just turning off the comments for a while. The conversation here has me disgusted and angry.

  32. And Chris, the last comment was cut because you blamed the loss on the refs. If the Lakers had played the Suns like they did Thursday night, the refs wouldn’t have mattered. If you leave it in the hands of the refs, what happens is not on them it’s on you. That doesn’t mean that something should not be done about cleaning up the officiating in the sport, but that is not some easy fix.

  33. Kurt while I agree a two game skid is not that big of a deal especially with March just starting. But the worry over Sasha isn’t “sudden” he has been playing in a funk for a long while now. I think we all wish that he would return to somewhat the form he was last year.

  34. Phil Jackson has been keeping Gasol on the court with the bench players. For whatever reason, Farmar and Vujacic choose to run pick and roll instead of working through Pau in the post. I cringe everytime that doesn’t happen in a half court set. Odom would probably be more effective on the second unit, given his decision making and ball-handling than Bynum.

  35. 32. Kurt

    You’re right, if as a team, the Lakers had played like they did Thursday night, they probably would have won…but then again, if the refs had allowed Lamar Odom to “play” at all, they probably would have won, as well.

    Also, it’s not chicken little thinking when you’re starting to notice some nasty patterns that could rear their heads comes playoff time.

    You’re right, when Bynum comes back (fingers crossed), the first and second units will be restored to their proper balance, but until then, the following negative consequences are occuring:

    1) Sasha is playing on a unit that doesn’t afford him the opportunity to get in his comfort zone, so he is pressing and missing shots. A lot of Sasha’s issues start in his head, and the more wide-open threes he misses, because he’s rushing them and not setting his feet and shooting correctly, the more he psychs himself out. The Lakers will need an accurate three point bomber besides Fish in the playoffs, and the only one left is Sasha…if he continues to brick, he’s going to be a basket case come playoff time.

    2) Farmar is pressing and trying to do too much because the play-making burden has been thrust upon him, and he’s not ready for that responsibility. Having Odom on that unit with him took a lot of the play-making pressure off him, and allowed him to be a scorer, which is his strength. The more he makes mistakes and snipes at the coaches in the interim, the more he creates a negative environment for the team.

    Big picture, the Lakers SHOULD be fine, but I don’t see the issue with mixing up the lineup a little bit to give guys a jump start.

  36. Well Sasha sucks thats just how it is, but the LAkers are still the best team going into the week.

  37. Kurt how can you say there are only three serious title contenders, there are two teams that can beat the LAkers in a seven game series in the West, worrying about the finals right now is foolish. I believe the Lakers should and could make the finals but to think that the JAzz or Spurs would be easy wins is foolish. And New Orleans and Denver are capable as well. We are one injury away from being done in the first round, dont look so far ahead as I dont see the Celtics or Cavs making the finals. They will probably both lose in the first round.

  38. Sasha does not suck. That is a silly thing to say. Sasha is the eptiome of a role player…hence he needs a role. As has been noted throughout the course of the season, aside from the brief spell when Farmar was out, Sasha has not been given (or earned) a role this year. He has become a player on a short string with Phil who is only being used to spell Kobe (for the main part).

    To maximize his abilities the staff has to find a way to give him a role. When Drew gets back it will help, but even without Drew Sasha can be useful. I think that the best option may be to use Kobe at the 3 a little more often and let Sasha sub in for Luke and play with the starters (whether early in the 1st or the 3rd quarter). This would still allow Trevor to play a majority of the 2nd and 4th quarters and Luke’s minutes won’t change much either (maybe go down a little depending on how he is playing).

  39. what is Sasha good at? Defense, handling the ball in traffic, shooting with consitancy, basketball IQ?

    No none of the above… dude he is good at absolutely nothing.

  40. Roll player is such a stupid term, as it can apply to everyone on a team, what he should be is in a roll as ninth man or beyond and is played almost as much as the starters. You have seen the best of Sasha and that wasnt much he is a team killer who is overated due to his being a fan favorite and believed to be a hustler, but his hustle is not a substitute for being a heady passer, ball handler, consistent shooter or able bodied defender. Hence he sucks.

  41. Sasha is a slower less athletic, higher paid version of Smush

  42. he is shooting a blistering 34 percent from three point land good for 147th in the league.

  43. excuse me 35 percent

  44. We always have to find someone to bag on. Ecccchhhh! I will come back again when there is something up for the game tomorrow.

  45. Nice job Kurt. Pretty easy to win an argument when you don’t let the other guy post, isn’t it?

    “Sasha sucks” makes it, but my point about the bad habits being developed as the second unit struggles, followed by a plan on how to improve the second unit by mixing up the line-ups doesn’t?

    I didn’t realize you subscribed to the “Little Lord Fautleroy” school of message board moderation.

  46. WHOOPS – Now I’m the a-hole. Good lord. I didn’t see my post above. Sorry, I must be tired. Carry on…

  47. I loved sashas game last year. When he was resigned I was happy. Seeing him play this year makes me think he is very easily replaceable. His skill set is a dime a dozen.

  48. The team is a bit out of synch with Odom no longer on the bench. The Bench Mob had a leader and the leader is now gone. The problem now is that Farmar and Sasha want to be the bench leader, and the guy that is best suited for the role (Ariza) does not want it. This does not mean we should panick, it just means that these guys have to figure out who should be the leader based on the best interest of the team.

  49. sasha will get his shooting back.

  50. Kurt, I just wanted to say you rule. That is all.

  51. The problems we’re having is mostly regular season stuff, since we’re trying to manage minutes with a roster that’s being thinned out to make room for next year.

    Mihm, although he wasn’t much was still a relatively ‘proven’ commodity. Vlad certainly provided much more than Brown and Morrison give combined. But we had to lose that luxury because we had to keep next season in mind, and we did so after we have gained a commanding lead in the west and with a decent shot at HCA even without those two.

    Had Bynum been healthy, we wouldn’t have missed a beat, and we really won’t once we have him back in our lineup and come off the bench until he’s ready. I doubt that we’ll need his services until the finals anyway, at least in a seven-game series.

    As for the recent troubles, I think it’s a bit of overzealousness. Sasha is probably thinking about his tenure with the Lakers as he’s probably easier to move than Walton while having similar salaries.

    Ariza probably is aware of his chances of being courted by some other team as a starter, and thus probably has personal incentive to work on ‘creating shots.’ With his injuries, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was eager to add a reliable mid-range game to increase his chances at longetivity.

    While Ammo and Brown are close to useless at this point, Ammo could serve as our last year’s Sasha if he taps into his potential, and we could wait and see if Brown could be a pace-changer just like Ariza.

    Anyway, I digressed, but what I wanted to say was that this mini-slump was only to be expected from a team trying to aim at many different things at once.

  52. utah is becoming a serious threat.

  53. okay i rest my case thanks kwame and kurt. bynum better be back then… GO LAKERS!

  54. You know what’s the only thing concerning me with our bench? Free throw percentage. Farmar is shooting below 60% from the line, while Ariza is shooting below 70. Lamar is also shooting close to 60%, which is bad. Otherwise, I’m not worried at all about our meagerly struggles in some meaningless regular season games. Phil uses this last third of the season to work out all the kinks out of our team and get his lineups set for the playoffs. If he suddenly changes everyone’s role, how are we going to be ready for the playoffs?

    Keep in mind when dealing with percentages, it is very, very easy for these guys to shoot a relatively low percentage. Why? Because a cold streak could take down their percentages by a significant amount, just by virtue of the fact that they actually don’t shoot all that much. Ariza, Odom, Gasol, Bynum, Fisher, and Kobe, all have above 400 shot attempts (Kobe and Gasol have well above 400), while Farmar and Sasha have 294 each. Keep in mind, if Farmar or Sasha miss 10 shots, that knocks down their shooting percentages by 3%, whereas if Kobe misses 10 shots, that only knocks down his percentage by less than 1%. So cold spells are far more pronounced in players that take fewer shots than those that take a larger amount. So before you all go screaming for Sasha’s head, please go learn some statistics.

    I too am tired of the incessant whining. As far as I know, no team has ever gone 98-0 in a season before (82 regular season, 16 playoffs), so expecting to win every single game seems like a delusional expectation to me. If anything, these regular season losses will sharpen our players for the playoffs, so it may be worth it to lose a couple more regular season games, if it causes are players to improve.

  55. People keep saying well Sasha isn’t playing well because Odom left the bench, and once Bynum gets back…etc.

    Last year didnt he have a career year with Bynum also out? What has changed? Sure Ariza is getting more PT but Vlade is no longer around.

    Sasha is just in a personal funk and is trying to force the matter and missing open shots.

  56. 47 EXACTLY… as he is not a point, doesnt have quickness or a body. He is purely there to shoot and he doesnt do that well. I would rather have Fred Jones, Mardy Collins, Brent Barry, Vladmir or Aaron Affalao then Sasha as they make threes but either offer more athletic ability, a decent NBA mind or cheaper pricetag. Sasha was a signing done purely to please ignorant fans.

  57. 53 Sasha shoots a low percentage because his shot selection is the worst on the team. and he has SHOT plenty of threes in his career to understand he is roughly a 35 percent brick to fastbreak machine. hence the nickname. he has no handle, no team first attitude, no defense, no upside.

  58. All right, now that I’ve calmed down a little, I can offer a more rational post:

    It’s an 82 game season – Kobe and Pau basically played all summer.

    Everyone’s exhausted. That’s the real problem. Because of the sparce schedule at the beginning of the season (remember where they had that one week where they only played one or two games?), lately, they’ve been playing a ton of games – like the back to back on Thursday and Friday.

    Greg Popovich sent a message to the league by sitting his starters when they had to go up against Denver in similar circumstances. Maybe Phil should do the same? I believe Henry Abbott posted something about Denver and Utah being the beneficieries of the most road back to backs…and the truth of the matter is, that’s a real advantage they have.

    Either way, the Lakers are tired (and short-handed), and it’s understandable – that explains their sluggish play of late. The light schedule this week (against two cupcakes at home) should go a long way towards re-establishing some momentum.

    There – that was actually rational…

  59. The Dude Abides March 2, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    31. Kurt, a disproportionate amount of the whining seems to be from one or two anonymous posters who don’t have the courtesy to register. If the regulars here don’t respond to these trolls, or their posts are deleted, this problem will mostly go away. I’ve been guilty in the past of responding to anonymous posters, so I’ll pledge to stop doing it.

  60. 57- So if take a name like The Dude Abides that will add validity to my post?

  61. First off, if you make a comment here (FB&G) it should be backed up with facts or some decent analytical analysis or it might/will be cut, I have had comments cut, no problem.

    I sure hope the team (Kobe and Pau) are not tired already from the summer games and this year so far, because we may have to go through the Jazz and/or Rockets and/or Spurs (let’s not forget the Hornets eigther) before even getting to the Finals. I am sure we will get the Western HCA anyway, right? Are we not just worried about a Finals HCA now? One Finals game extra at home, how important is that really, do we need to concentrate on that issue now. As I think someone said yesterday about Sasha, the law of averages say he should start hitting those shots of his in the future. I think alot of Darius’s comments from the last thread are relevant to this discussion also. The Gasol brothers again Tuesday, great.

    Do what you need to first, do what you want last.

  62. I just got back from Staples, watching the Spurs dismantle the Clips. Let me say first a couple things that somewhat conflict: 1) I enjoy watching the Spurs play basketball, they are efficient and their defensive rotations are really crisp (which is what did in the Clips, that and Barron Davis not mentally showing up); 2) I still don’t think they can beat the Lakers, they did not have me in awe. You can see places that they can be attacked. Granted, no Manu tonight and Parker looked fantastic, but their role players are not what they were a few years back.

    As for Sasha, what is really bugging about some comments is that he seems to be the new whipping boy. People are saying he can’t play defense, when in the playoffs last year he closed out games because he was one of our better defenders. This year he is holding opposing two guards to 46.5% shooting and a PER of 13.7. He is holding opposing PGs to 45% shooting (and that is eFG%) but he does give up a lot of assists.

    But this goes back to the bigger picture — when put in a position to guard twos, he does a good job. But when, due to injuries or whatever, he has to guard ones and threes he struggles. The entire second unit tends to be like that, but Phil had them in positions to succeed until Bynum went down and the rotations changed. Now they are asked to do more and other things, Sasha is shooting off the dribble and having to create offense rather than be a catch-and-shoot guy, and he’s not as successful.

    We can argue about his value, but that is very different than the number of deleted comments about how he just sucks.

  63. And, sorry for the freak out earlier.

  64. The Sasha Abides March 3, 2009 at 1:18 am

    of course the spurs can beat the Lakers, as could the Jazz hopefully that doesn’t happen but I think its just plain wacky to think the Spurs arent the biggest threat until proven otherwise.

  65. 64. Biggest threat in the West, yes. But I don’t think they can beat a healthy Lakers team. Take them six games, yes, but not win a series.

  66. this is the first time, i’ve seen “panic” in FB&G

    i think phil has offered a fairly valid argument about the last two losses.
    They are tired.

    although i can also see that the problem could also be caused by what have been discussed, such as bench production, rotations, chemistry, me-first mentality, eagerness to make impacts in limited playing time, etc.
    and i agree with all that.

    my point is we are still the lakers.
    PJ is still the best coach in the NBA (the last time i checked)
    Kobe is still the best player in NBA too
    Gasol is still the best passing big man in NBA too
    Odom is still playing great, he just need to cool off a bit and take less foul call and he should be ok.
    Bynum is on his way back.

    As for bench production, i think PJ has promised to put walton in the 2nd unit.
    But i haven’t seen it happened.
    maybe during the next game, he will.

    I would like to also see kobe and gasol together playing with the second unit, with farmar n ariza.
    I am pretty sure, their production will immediately go up because gasol and kobe will attract double team. (if any of u think it’s a blasphemy that i put gasol name in front of kobe, u really need to chill :D)

    I would also like to see sasha plays with kobe, with kobe as SF with fish, gasol and odom
    I think it’s far more important to keep sasha confident enough with how he could contribute than to conclude that he belongs in d-league. Because we have seen his play when he is confident, and we loved him last year, even as far as saying, we should definitely sign him last summer.

    sorry for the long post. just want to share my enthusiasm, that LAKERS will rebound from this “micro” slump.

    cheers

  67. I almost hate to admit it, but– tomorrow I’m going to my first Lakers game ever! Woo Hoo!! I can’t believe this day has finally come… And in THIS economy…

    I’m honestly so excited. I finally get to see the Lake Show in person!!

    Oh and I was at the Clips game tonight as well– my cousin actually sang the national anthem. The home team, unfortunately, forgot to show up. No way that happens two nights in a row, right?

    GO LAKERS.

  68. 66) 1331,
    “this is the first time, i’ve seen “panic” in FB&G”

    I think the problem is that last June, everyone expected the Lakers to win (a combination of Boston’s struggles in a couple of series and the way the Lakers went through the series in the West), and they ended up losing. And now everytime there’s a “blip” on the radar, a lot of fans get nervous about something similar happening again.

  69. the other Stephen March 3, 2009 at 9:28 am

    let me break it down: we’re getting cold feet, so we all need are some Socks.

  70. 62. Kurt

    You point out a really important aspect of the Spurs and their continued success – if you actually look at the line-up, itself, outside of Duncan, Parker, and Manu (who always seems to be hurt), you have a lot of very, VERY average players. But they have a terrific system, that they all buy into. If they’re playing against a team that is in any way disorganized or not cohesive, they will beat them – it’s as simple as that.

    However, as you say, I don’t think they have enough talent to beat the Lakers in a 7 game series, because the Lakers also have a system, that when utilized (given the talent level they have), is very difficult to beat.

    In 2006, a team that started Kwame Brown and Smush Parker took the Suns (at their peak) 7 games because of the system.

    I think when we see the Lakers slip (during the regular season) is when they get tired and stop using the system. That’s when you see turnovers and the ball stalling in the triangle.

    Once the playoffs roll around, I’m sure everyone will have their focussed renewed, and we’re all going to see a different Laker team.

    That being said, I do think they’ve hit the doldrums a little bit as the season is probably starting to drag for them. They’ll snap out of it – maybe even this week now that they get a rest from the hectic schedule.

  71. The Lakers have struggled in strectches since the season began. And they have bounced back every time. Our record indicates we are a very solid team. We are not suddenly going to fall off a cliff and become the Wizards or the Kings.

  72. @ 70 – The Spurs role players are not THAT average, especially when you consider George Mason, George Hill, and Matt Bonner, especially when those players aren’t playing out of position. You could probably put Michael Finley in there too.

  73. Finley looked good last night, but he’s always looked good when you don’t bother to cover him.

  74. #73 – lol, you can say that about every player. Seriously, when plays his natural position, Finley a solid average player. Finley plays out of position at SF, and given his age and size, it easy to see why he’s not productive on many occasions at that position.

  75. It’s amazing how quickly “fans” turn against their team when they lose a game they feel the team must win. I don’t think people take into consideration that when the Lakers play a sub .500 team that team has something to prove, they use us as a measuring stick and they will bring their best game. Which if you notice a lot of young players tend to have career games against us, is it lack of defense/focus? I doubt that, it’s the case of making a statement against a superior team.

    The better team doesn’t always win, plain & simple. We weren’t going to go undefeated, like they say this is a marathon season, we’re bound to have losses that don’t sit well but that’s sports. Look at how many upsets have happened in the history of sports, it’s not like the Lakers are the only team to ever lose to sub .500 team. Blaming refs for losses is a cop out, blaming the bench/starters is also a way out of simply saying we lost, end of story.

  76. E-ROC, you and I could have looked good against the Clips perimeter defense last night. My Dad and his two hand set shot could have scored 8.

  77. LOL @ Kurt. So true!

  78. The Chicken Littles have forgotten which team they support. The Lakers are a team that takes big games and serious competition seriously and lesser teams less seriously. The short handed Suns are a team that gets blown out by a short handed Lakers by 30 with the starters resting the whole 4th when those short handed Lakers decide to make a statement. When the LAkers want to make a statement they end 19, 12 and 25 game winning steaks of the most serious contenders to the championships. They do all this whether fatigued from coming to the end of a very long road trip that began with a serious physical and psychological injury or when building up the tension of having been whipped by their biggest rival on the biggest stage.

    Combine the facts that this team has only a little to prove in this regular season as of right now, that they are short handed a huge component and that every team suffers some let down periods with the fact that this team brings it to the big games, I think you can understand why the Lakers are on a little two game losing streak.

    It’ll be nice if Sasha starts hitting wide open shots a bit more often but I’m not counting on it. I think this year is a year where Sasha fills in some minutes and doesn’t hurt the team too much. We’ll see if he sucks next season because two season in a row like this and then we might find that Sasha is a bit over paid. Again, we’ll see. Let not forget that Sasha has one skill that will never go into slumps. He makes opposing players and fans hate him. We’ve seen the manifestation of that talent on this comment thread.

  79. 72. E-Roc

    I’d be curious to see how George Mason, George Hill, and Matt Bonner did on another team. They’re average players who are in a great system that makes the most of their talents. My point is on the Spurs Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli are the only players who you could put on any team and see terrific results.

    George Mason was invisible last year until he joined the Spurs and fit into a system that made the most of his abilities.

    With the Lakers, you could take Kobe, Gasol, Odom, or Bynum and put them on another team and get terrific results.

    In fact, I bet if you put Farmar on Golden State, Phoenix, or the Knicks, you’d probably get BETTER results than you see on the Lakers.

    My point is, the Lakers have more talent than the Spurs, and when you have two very good systems going against each other, talent (usually) wins out.

  80. Yesterday I was talking about players playing to their strengths and saying that Ariza and Sasha need to get back to that. The players on the Spurs are the epitome of this concept. I think that when people start to say that the players on the Spurs are average at best they’re missing the point. Sure, as overall talents, these guys aren’t world beaters but they are players that consistently do what they’re good at. I’ll take 10 guys with less talent who do what they do best as often as possible over 10 guys with more talent who consistently try to do things that are a little bit more than they’re capable of. And so you know, this isn’t some hidden agenda rant against our guys. I’m only talking about my philosophies on players and how the approach the game based off their respective talents and strengths.

  81. Chirs- Roger Mason filled in nicely for Washington last year while Arenas was out and helped that team make the playoffs, he is an underrated player who is a typical Spurs find. Hill is another underrated player who played at a small college, but had a skill set that translates well in the NBA. I think both of those players are the type of infusion of talent the Spurs needed. Pop has done a good job getting them experience, but neither has made a deep run in the playoffs and it will be interesting to see how they do when we get into May.

  82. 76) Kurt,
    ” My Dad and his two hand set shot could have scored 8″

    Just curious; does he have any experience in the triangle offense?

  83. For further clarification, I agree with Kurt that, in a seven game series, the Lakers would beat the Spurs. A major reason would be our main players (even without Bynum) match up quite nicely with theirs and our best player is the best player from both teams. But I would also say that our secondary players are more talented than theirs and (building on my previous point) have more strengths to play to. Despite the bashing given from several posters, Sasha is a good player for us that contributes in several ways. Add to him Farmar, Ariza, and Walton and you’ve got players who bring more to the table than the more specialized players of the Spurs. In the end, I think that even if the talent level was a wash (which I don’t think it is; I think we have more) I would point out that we have *more* capable players and we also have more high level contributors. To me, we just have a better team.

  84. Re: The Spurs system: I was at the game with a number of Pomona College alums (including my wife). The reason is that Pop started as a head coach there, and his top assistant Mike Budenholzer was recruited by Pop and played at Pomona. Mike spoke to the group after the game (with a cameo from the big guy).

    Someone asked about finding the role players they do and he talked not much about basketball skills and at length about finding guys with the right character and personalities, about fit and the kind of people they want. It was interesting in that, while talent mattered, for your stars it is about willingness to play the role and buy in, and looking for that before you trade/draft a guy. I know every NBA team does interviews and what have you, but how many are as serious as the Spurs about it?

  85. Griz preview up.

  86. 84. Kurt

    I think the Lakers are pretty serious about finding players that fit their system – but the recent incarnation of the team runs into some issues because they’ve found YOUNG players who don’t always play to their strengths/use the system the way it’s supposed to be used.

    Those Shaq/Kobe three-peat teams were a better example of surrounding superstars with quality role-players who fit the system and bought into it. Horry, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, and Horace Grant were all guys that fit the system and knew how to make the most of their talents in the system.

    One big issue the Lakers are currently facing (and will face over the summer and next year) is Jordan Farmar is not a good fit for the triangle – and I don’t think he ever will be. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s a good player – he is. He’s just not a triangle point guard.

    The Lakers will have to figure that out over the summer, because Farmar isn’t the future at point guard.

  87. Chris, I agree about the Lakers efforts and struggles in this regard.

  88. Chris – Chris, stop it. Great players make their teammates better which has happened to George Mason, Matt Bonner, and George Hill. George Mason is player who was helped greatly with the experience of playing overseas. He came to the Wizards and continued his improvement. Trust me, Mason was a major coup by the Spurs. Check Matt Bonner’s numbers. He can flat ball as a role player. Go ask the Celtics how good Bonner. As for George Hill, can rookie get some love? He’s played well this season. As with most rookies, there is inconsistency. Most of his inconsistency lies with his offense. Defensively, he’s excellent. Role players will perform based upon the great players that they play with. Great players make their role players better. That’s just fact and there is nothing wrong with that. It helps that role players make the right decisions with and without the basketball.

  89. Umm,not to be a prick about it, but GEORGE Mason’s a university which went on a Cinderella NCAA run coupla years back.ROGER Mason’s the former Wizard whose really,really impressed me this year and he’s also hit a couple of cold-blooded game winning triples this year.He’s basically been what Brent Barry was supposed to be last year.George HILL’s a scrappy,defensive point guard whose athleticism has Spurs fans giddy.Kurt, why don’t you ask Tim over at 48MOH about the relative merits and demerits of their role players versus ours.

  90. The Sasha Abides March 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    There are some good points here, bottom line is Lakers should be motivated again now, so lack of motivation shouldnt be an excuse.

  91. I thought Sasha had a terrific year last season. My initial impression after seeing him struggle this year is that he is playing less minutes. Somewhere on his mind, he is probably wondering how come he plays less after having a great year, and probably that affected his confidence.