Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  March 23, 2009
Sean Diddy Combs And Kobe Bryant Host Party At M2 Ultra Lounge

If you read just one thing today, make it the great piece on Lamar Odom from Sports Illustrated by Lee Jenkins.

THE HAPPIEST Laker is the one whose father was addicted to heroin, whose mother died of colon cancer when he was 12, who attended three high schools, had his first college scholarship revoked before the fall semester of his freshman year, became a subject of three college investigations, declared for the NBA draft, tried unsuccessfully to pull out of the draft, was picked by arguably the worst franchise in sports, violated the league’s antidrug policy twice within eight months and after finally getting his life together, went home to New York City for an aunt’s funeral and wound up burying his 6½-month-old son, then getting robbed at gunpoint.

“That’s my book,” says Lamar Odom. “That’s my movie. It’s a big bowl of gumbo.”

That is why I and many others are rooting hard for him to succeed. Here and in everything he does.

• Plenty of talk in Lakers land about home court advantage (now suddenly called just HCA). I don’t think HCA in the Finals is as big a deal as some do, because of the 2-3-2 format it is simply not cruicial to have it unless you can’t win a lick on the road (and the Lakers have proven this season they can win on the road anywhere). I think it could matter in the Western Conference, save that the Lakers basically have it sewn up. And I don’t buy the “look at game six from last Finals” argument, because I don’t think those Lakers were beating those Celtics either way. It exacerbated what happened in game six, but it was not why the Lakers lost. This year, the Lakers and Celtics are different teams.

• The Lakers had the rare two days off between games on the road, and the team had a choice — spend the free day in Chicago or Oklahoma City. Actually, is that really much of a choice?

• Best line of the day comes from Gilbert Arenas on if the rumors are true that he is coming back to the lineup on Saturday: “It’s only true if I play on Saturday. If I don’t play, it ain’t true.”

• The Houston Rockets are now second in the Western Conference, and are 15-4 since McGrady shockingly ended his season due to injury (who could have seen that coming?). The Rockets beat the Spurs in SA yesterday. The question is, are they for real this year? Could they win a seven game series against Utah or San Antonio? I think they may be more set this year than previous years — if Artest does not try to take over the offense.

• By the way, I suck at college basketball predictions. Apparently. Out of 151 in the FB&G pool, I am a pathetic 130. After the first weekend march mustache (day0ungster) has the inside track.

• I’m not a big sitcom guy, but Big Bang Theory is a new favorite.

Kurt

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53 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. Let’s get the regular season over already. April 18 is the start of another special playoff run

  2. That was a great article on Lamar. I read it a few days ago as it was making its way around the comments.

    I sent it the article to my girlfriend who says LO is her favorite Laker (used to be Ronny), because he plays hard (funny how perceptions are built). I hope he stays in LA.

  3. Big Bang is excellent!

  4. I had to speak in church yesterday and I actually used that Odom SI story as a point in my talk.

    People love to rip on athletes and all of the money they make, the benefits of fame they enjoy, etc. But people tend to forget that these athletes are still people who have concerns, trials and tragedies, just like everyone else.

    It’s easy for someone who’se struggling to make their house payment to turn on a TV and say, “Look at that guy, making all of that money to play a kids’ game. He doesn’t deserve it. Other people work harder than he does.”

    Perhaps. But before someone judges Lamar, ask yourselves: would you trade your life for $14 million a year if it also meant taking on the baggage Lamar has to carry? I wouldn’t. And given what he’s been through, he’s handled life with real grace.

    Given the lower cap and reduced revenue on the horizon leaguewide, I’m more optimistic that Odom will remain a Laker after this season (as well as Ariza). I think a pay cut is in order regardless of where LO lands given the new economic reality, and he seems to want to stay in L.A. so a home team discount may be in order.

    But let’s focus on watching him earn some new jewelry first – the kind of ring money can’t but.

  5. Yeah Big Bang Theory!

    Go Sheldon!

  6. Big Bang’s been around for a while hasn’t it? I watched a few eps a few months ago and did like it. But it seems like it might get old quickly if you watch it every week.

    What about movies? I’ve heard good things about Knowing, is it worth seeing?

    The only movie I’m really dying for is Wolverine, we should dedicate an entire FBaG post to it when it comes out. I’m sure we can find some way to relate it to the Lakers. There was an NBA article a few years ago (when X2 came out) that compared NBA superstars to X-Men, and Kobe was matched with Wolverine…

    Wow it IS a slow day…

  7. Want a reason to feel good as a Laker fan? Check out our record in road games vs elite teams and compare it to the road record of the other top teams. This is as good an argument as any for us being the favorites heading into the playoffs…

    Btw, how sweet would it be if Houston finally managed to advance out of the 1st round without TMac? That said, poetic justice aside, I’ll be rooting against them– on paper, at least, I think they might be our toughest matchup….

  8. Two days off between road games might be good for the team… but it’s bad for me!

  9. -Chris J.

    I’m glad you used that piece when you spoke at your church. Sometimes people ask why we follow sports and it’s because sometimes we get a piece of information that can be applied to our lives.

    Agree with you Kurt,
    HCA is a nice thing to have but it isn’t necessary for us to win in the Finals. We have won there once this season, so we have that confidence going in and we match up particularly well with Cleveland.

    All this talk about the Finals irks me a little bit. I hope the players don’t think they’re going to waltz to the finals, and concentrate at the present. One game at a time, one series at a time. I want that boring line and hope the players embrace it.

  10. For all of our worrying of late, I’d hate to see what the mood in the comments section would be if we were going through a patch like the Spurs recent stretch, 6-7, two of the big 3 injured, playoffs around the corner…ouch.

  11. Big Bang FTW!!! “EVERYTHING is better with bluetooth!”

  12. We built the pyramids! Math, science, history… so catchy, and you have to smile when you end it with “hey!”

    Off to spring training for the week, and to visit my parents. The best part? They have NBA league pass. I dont expect to be very sociable as a result.

  13. Not to be pessimistic, this is an honest question (I don’t have any figures) – does regular season record usually translate to the playoffs? The one example that’s standing out in my mind is how the Cavs swept the season series from the Spurs in 2007, and were clearly no contest from them in the Finals. I just don’t know if that’s the norm or an exception.

  14. I believe HCA is fairly important, just because it’s really tough to win three games in a row, even with the advantage of them being on your home floor. Only twice has the team without HCA won all three middle games (04 pistons, 06 heat), so holding serve in the Finals is not as easy as it is in other series.

  15. Snoopy2006,

    It probably depends on when both of those games were played. Both Cavs-Spurs matchups took place before January 3rd, and their meeting in San Antonio was the second game of the season. We all know the Spurs don’t historically kick it into gear until their rodeo trip in February, so it probably mattered little to them how they fared in the regular season.

    It’s hard to really tell because a two game sample is too small to discern any real knowledge other than “Okay, we proved we could beat the Celtics in Boston and the Cavs in Cleveland”, when you probably knew that you’d have to beat them there going in.

  16. Big Bang Theory shout out! Unfortunately, I checked my guide earlier to see if it would be a new one and it doesn’t look like it’s on tonight.

    Snoopy, depending on what you mean by “regular season record”, I would say it doesn’t matter. It has always seemed more important to be playing well on your way in to the playoffs. That and postponing bad matchups until later rounds, if not outright avoiding them. Kinda of like last season.

    This year, most don’t really believe anyone can beat us in the west. Deep down I know I don’t. I hope the players aren’t in that category.

  17. For nothing, DraftExpress updated its mock today, and now the Lakers are taking Sam Young out of Pitt. I like that a lot better, he strikes me as a solid role player in the NBA.

  18. Thanks for the Odom link, a great read. He just holds a special place in my heart. No matter if he has phases that can frustrate a fan, just seeing him put so much emotion (or so many emotions) into this game is a joy to watch. I remember that one fast break that Pau lead while going behind his back, and Lamar was smiling from half court until the basket was made. I’ve seen him smile even before he received a Walton pass that he knew he would finish with a dunk. And I don’t take this as a sign that he doesn’t take the game seriously, just that it is so rewarding for him.

    Also, and I’m probably not the first one to mention this, I find it interesting that Odom’s last name can be rearranged either to “Doom”, which is what he has had to overcome to where he is now. It also spells out “Mood”, which is what he might be battling right now, i.e. whether he “keeps his head in the game”. But he also seems like a good measuring stick for the mood of the Lakers as a whole, being the spiritual pre-game leader but also the guy whose focus and effort can change the whole dynamic of the team.

  19. 15, 16 – I was kind of thinking along those lines, I’m not sure if 1 win in Cleveland or 1 in Boston signals that we’re fully equipped to take a Finals game in either city. But it looks like we might have no choice when it comes to Cleveland.

    As far as HCA in the Finals, it’s a tricky situation. It all depends on if the home team can hold on to the first two games. Until last year I preferred to be the road time, because I was fairly confident we could win one in Boston, and then 2 in LA gives you a 3-2 lead (albeit, heading back on the road). HCA is probably advantageous, but puts immense pressure on the home team to come out sharp, with no lapses, and win the first two. Sometimes if a team has had a week off, all it takes is a rusty half to throw HCA down the drain.

    I’ve never seen Young, but reading his profile on DE and NBAdraft.net, I like what he could potentially bring. All we need at the 3 is a shooter/defensive hawk, and it looks like (from some scouts POV) he has the tools to be a great defensive player.

  20. Does anyone else find it weird that DraftExpress has Darren Collison’s best case as Chris Duhon and worst as Mario Chalmers? Chalmers hasn’t even played a full season and IMO has been the steal of the draft. Still, not even 1 season. And he’s a worst case scenario?

    Can you say “premature judgment”?

  21. 19-I find that weird too. Collison (and Duhon for that matter) would be thirlled to play as well as Chalmers has, considering it is his rookie season, playing the toughest position, with a rookie coach, on a team that won 15 games the year before. Collison looked really bad this year, I don’t know what the reason was for his play, but he didn’t help himself, considering he was probably late lottery last year.

  22. Sometimes I think the best/worst case stuff at DraftExpress doesn’t get updated that often. Collison gets hit pretty hard in the most recent write up, after that ‘Nova disaster. Not as bad as Jrue Holiday, however.

  23. #20 – Couldn’t you make a decent argument Chalmers will be better than Duhon?

    I guess comparing players is harder than it looks.

    In terms of a Lakers draft, I do wonder if they will go college or International route.

    The problem with picking international players late in the first round is that teams are held to a slot payment. Most of the good players can earn much more overseas. That’s why its better to draft them in the second, when you can pay them fair value.

  24. 23 – lol that’s the funniest part, I’d say unless Chalmers regresses or stops developing, he’ll be much better than Duhon.

    Funny video on the Cavs and Suns intros:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Video-Shaq-calls-LeBron-s-intro-weak-goes-hu;_ylt=A2KIRy1xHchJkQwBlAO8vLYF?urn=nba,149828

    Personally I think Shaq was trying a little too hard. The Cavs one was hilarious the first time I saw it, really shows their great chemistry. I find it funny that Lebron does his routine with all his teammates, whereas only the rookies will goof off with Shaq (it was that way earlier in the season too, when Shaq had the rookies carry him onto the court). Part hazing, but maybe also due to the veterans being a little tired of Shaq’s over-the-top antics.

    Also, what would happen someone got injured during these routines?

  25. Sam Young looks old enough to be Greg Oden’s dad.

  26. In my opinion, Collison was plagued by his decision to come back for his senior year. He had nowhere near the talent he was used to playing with and often just looked like he didn’t care. He also stated in several interviews that he thought about the NBA “every day.” Add that to the fact that the most engaged he ever looked was when he was talking to Mbah a Moute and Love during halftime of one of the games, and I think it becomes pretty clear his mind was already thinking about the next level.

    Don’t get me wrong, Collison is a stud when it comes to executing the coach’s game plan and he is much, much more effective when he’s not relied upon to score, but late first round is about as high as he ever should have been considered.

  27. It’s doubtful (based off the mock drafts that I’ve seen) that this guy would fall, but I’d really like to draft Eric Maynor from VCU. He’s a senior, is clutch, plays good defense, and has won games at a pretty small school. He’s been a pretty celebrated player, so I doubt he’ll fall, but I’d really like to have this kid. Plus, he’d push Farmar and potenially be a guy that could play for us if Fisher isn’t around in a couple of seasons.

  28. Amazing article on Lamar.
    Thanks for the heads up.

  29. I think it’s guaranteed the Lakers go international. They can’t afford to pay a draft pick guaranteed money, especially if it’s doubled by the luxury tax. I’m thinking they’ll take some foreign project we’ve never heard of (a la Sun Yue), just so they can stash the cap space for a later date. I’m not too worried about it, it’s not like the Lakers are getting old anytime soon, and with our depth, the rookie would get 0 minutes on the floor. Just ask Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison.

  30. In terms of international players, scouts are high on Donatas Motiejunas, an 18-year old Lithuanian player, as the next Dirk. Although the league he’s playing in isn’t very competitive, he’s averaging 20 ppg and has a 50% 3P%, which is pretty good for an 18-year old prospect no matter which league he’s playing in.

    See Chad Ford’s draft tracker (needs Insider):

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nbadraft/draft/tracker/player?playerId=19306&draftyear=2009

  31. We’ve had about 25 years of the current 2-3-2 format. Why not switch it back and make the Finals just like every other round of the playoffs with a 2-2-1-1-1format? I know the league doesn’t want the entire media and celebrity circles to travel that much, but they do it for every other round. It can help both the road and the home team depending upon what happens the first 4 games. 2-2-1-1-1 would make the Finals a lot more entertaining.

  32. Bruinfan, I think the other thing that really hurts Collison is that he is not strong enough to hold off an NBA point guard — look what Rose did to him in the final four last year. Now, Rose is somewhat of an exception, but there is still D-Will and Roy and Paul and Fish and others I can name who would just muscle him around right now.

    Darius, I’m with you on Maynor, I liked what I saw. But he is not going to fall as far as we need (and I don’t want to trade up in this draft, it’s not that good).

  33. I’m not sure if this was posted on previously, but about a week ago I wondered why our Lakers weren’t an option anymore for Fan Night on NBAtv. I already have League Pass so I don’t miss a game (not living in or near LA), but I followed who was being picked and it was our Lakers hands down. I emailed the league regarding why our Lakers weren’t an option and here was their official response:
    “All NBA national television carriers, including NBA TV, can televise the games of each team a maximum of nine times throughout the regular season. Once a team reaches the cap on NBA TV, they are no longer eligible for voting on NBA TV’s Fan Night. ” Pretty weak in my humble opinion.

  34. A+ read on Lamar. My friend’s reaction: “SI is still around?” Apparently with great writers to boot.

    One more Big Bang Theory fan here. “you haven’t bought me a gift, you bought me an obligation.”

  35. DARN YOU KURT. I have now become an addict- I’ve never seen the show, watched it, and am now wondering how the hell I missed it.

  36. Kurt, you’re right about DC not having the strength to contend with some of the stronger guards (he should have never had to deal with Rose, Westbrook should have been on him the whole time but I’d rather not relive that pain). Also, speedy as he may be, Collison doesn’t consistently beat his man off the dribble, which is a bit weird. DraftExpress has him going to the Wolves to get reunited with Love, who could then give him the rookie treatment. How weird would that be?

    I agree that there’s no way Maynor falls to us, and ultimately think we go international.

  37. Re: NBA TV pick. I have League Pass Broadband and it sucked that the Lakers were picked all the time due to the absurd policy of blacking out LP for NBA TV games.

    Hello? I’m using LP Broadband because I’m not near a freaking TV!! Blackouts even for archived games. Makes me feel no guilt about watching games on justin.tv.

  38. I wouldn’t mind drafting an international guy, it’s just that (as was mentioned earlier) first round contracts are given a slotted salary and it’s tough to get a prospect that plays in Europe to give up the money to come to the states, especially with the value of the dollar compared to the Euro (and the fact that players in Europe do get perks playing on those teams-apt., car, etc). You add to that fact that most Euros worth their first round selection are not projects, but rather pretty good players (like Splitter, whose rights are owned by the Spurs) and it becomes even more difficult to lure them to the NBA because their contracts in Europe are even more substantial. I’d rather draft a junior or senior with less upside, but who also has the chance to compete for minutes or at least is far enough along in his development that he could be a spot player and not be overwhelmed. We do have 2 second round picks this year, so I wouldn’t mind drafting a Euro prospect with one of those picks (like we did with Marc Gasol) and see if he develops and then take a younger college player that could go to the D-league with the other pick or take another senior with limited upside (like we did with Turiaf and Walton) and see if they can pick up our system and play for us. Mitch has done a pretty good job with his second rounders (besides those aforementioned two, he did take Von Wafer in the 2nd round as well and he’s turned into a pretty nice player). Remember too that we do only have 9 players under contract for next season and signing Ariza and/or Odom are not shoe ins. We may need these guys just to fill out our roster as guys that can potentially get some run for us. I know that seems doubtful right now, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

  39. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Ugh. I still want Collison to be a Laker. I hope the T-Wolves don’t take him.

    Anyway, I’m going to commit blasphemy here and wish that the Spurs fall into the 4th or 5th slot and the Rockets/Hornets take up the 2nd and 3rd slots. Even with Manu back in the lineup, I don’t for one minute believe that he’ll be back to 100% by the playoffs. Also, Duncan’s injured quadriceps can only get better with several weeks of rest. He won’t be 100% either. I would much rather face an old and gimpy Spurs team in the 2nd round than a young, hungry, and talented Jazz or Blazers squad.

    Whoever doesn’t win the NW Division will likely be in the other half of the draw from the Lakers. I’m hoping Denver takes that division, and plays the Spurs in the first round. I think if Utah and SA finish 4-5, then Utah will take that series, but I believe SA would defeat either DEN or POR.

  40. “Anyway, I’m going to commit blasphemy here and wish that the Spurs fall into the 4th or 5th slot and the Rockets/Hornets take up the 2nd and 3rd slots. Even with Manu back in the lineup, I don’t for one minute believe that he’ll be back to 100% by the playoffs. Also, Duncan’s injured quadriceps can only get better with several weeks of rest. He won’t be 100% either. I would much rather face an old and gimpy Spurs team in the 2nd round than a young, hungry, and talented Jazz or Blazers squad.

    Whoever doesn’t win the NW Division will likely be in the other half of the draw from the Lakers. I’m hoping Denver takes that division, and plays the Spurs in the first round. I think if Utah and SA finish 4-5, then Utah will take that series, but I believe SA would defeat either DEN or POR.”

    ***

    Speaking of this, I don’t know if the recent Hollinger column about the Suns was discussed, but I am now rooting for the Mavericks to hold on to the 8th spot. The Suns have been scoring at a record pace (yes, they have been giving up points almost as fast) and if Bynum is not ready, with a fired-up Shaq, the Suns would I think be a lot more dangerous than the Mavs.

    ESPN/ABC/TNT are of course praying nightly for LAL/PHO in Round 1.

  41. Big Bang Theory is pretty much the only sitcom I can stand to watch, since it’s the only one I have found that isn’t way too hysterical, and that is actually funny. (Is it good or bad that I get all the in-jokes…?)

    That is a fantastic article about Lamar. As frustrating as it can be to watch him, I have always liked him. I’m not sure if he plays hard or not, but I’m convinced he has a great passion for the game, and loves every moment of it.

    I came home from work last night and my husband dragged me to the computer to read an SI article… I was going to post the link here this morning, but it looks like I’m a bit behind schedule :)

  42. Man I didn’t know so many people liked Big Bang Theory. It was my guilty pleasure to channel my inner nerd. Now maybe I won’t be embarrassed to admit it.

    I hope the bench comes out tonight with the same run-and-gun intensity as the Chicago game.

  43. The Dude Abides March 24, 2009 at 9:23 am

    40. robinred, yeah that too. It’s sad that Shaq has better stamina now than he did in his last season with the Lakers.

  44. Still think the Lakers will go after a project C or PG in the draft. They need someone for Bynum to practice against next yr and would prob like to start grooming someone for when Fish eventually retires.

  45. Stephen:
    I’m more concerned with our point guard situation than with center. Farmar still seems to be struggling to fit in the system, and though I love Fisher, he’s not as young as he once was. We’re not as deep on that position as we are on others, and I’d like to see that addressed for next season.

  46. Sun Yue is our point guard of the future. Just putting it out there…

  47. 46, thanks for keeping me up at night…

  48. Speaking of sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother is a favorite of mine, as is The Office. I’m totally psyched that Idris Elba (Stringer Bell, for anyone who watches The Wire) is guest-starring in the latter

  49. We have 8 players signed for next year: Fish, Jordan, Kobe (player opt out), Sasha, Luke, Adam, Pau, and Andrew. Sun is a team option.

    We all want LO and Trevor back. Does anyone want to sign any of the other three: Shannon, Josh, Mbenga?

    Anyone we sign will be paid double (luxury tax) and any new people will have to learn the triangle.

    With three draft choices in a weak draft this is going to be an interesting off season, championship or no this year.

  50. Craig W. – I wouldn’t re-sign both Odom and Ariza. I’m leaning towards wanting to re-sign Odom, though that is subject to change. I would re-sign Shannon Brown and maybe Josh Powell. I think Shannon Brown could return on a dirt cheap contract. If not, the Lakers could always re-sign Joe Crawford from the D-League. A lot of this decision will probably depend on the draft.

  51. A great read. L-O catches a lot of stuff for not scoring the basketball or for not being aggressive enough, but (sorry Luke) it’s Lamar that is the ultimate glue guy.

    Stu loves him. I trust his judgement of people and things.

  52. Snoopy- i prefer http://www.nbadraft.net, but even they struggle sometimes with the comparisons.

    Accordingly, we should have about 7-10 Kenny Anderson’s in the association by next year…