Rest Assured?

Darius Soriano —  April 2, 2009

As the team prepares for another deep playoff run, there are two major issues that are on the minds of every fan.  First, are the Lakers playing well enough right now for that deep run?  In recent weeks the team has not played anywhere near it’s best basketball.  The bench is a shadow of the group that many pundits and fans hailed as the league’s best second unit.  Plus, the starters have looked disjointed – not running the offense with precision and not playing the level of defense you would expect from the NBA’s sixth ranked team in defensive efficiency.  Overall, the team is playing uninspired for major stretches of every game.  Which leads us to the second concern – are the Lakers going to rest it’s best players to gear up for the pursuit of that elusive championship?  Every fan can tell that this team is not only a bit bored, but it’s tired.  When Kobe, maybe the best conditioned athlete in the league, is shooting flat jumpers (even by his standards) and lacking explosion to finish around the basket you know that the entire team could use some time away from the game to rest weary legs.

But how will the team remedy these issues?  First and foremost is for the team to start playing better.  Personally, I was encouraged by the last eight to ten minutes of the Bucks game.  The offense looked more fluid as players moved with more purpose and got the types of looks that I wanted them to take.  The defense also elevated another notch as Kobe denied passes to Jefferson, rotations were sharper, and Farmar did a good job of staying in front of his man.  And while the competition was not the stiffest, with many matchups in our favor, it was nice to see us put together a good stretch against any opponent.  Add the fact that the team was at the end of a seven game road trip and playing it’s fifth game in seven nights and I’m even happier about the performance.  The team showed it’s resiliency.  And that’s a trait that they’ll definitely need to play well in May and June.  

But what about some rest for the weary?  As I pointed out, Kobe looks tired.  Gasol’s minutes are through the roof.  And even though Fish has actually played less lately, he’s also our oldest player and has already had a month long stretch of games this season where he was consistently playing thirty five plus minutes nightly.  Is Phil going to idle down the team to recharge their batteries before the playoffs?  Answers may be coming soon.  Phil has said that a major goal for this team is to reach the sixty win plateau.  This is classic Phil as he has always motivated with carrots and with sticks.  He will call you out in the media or make some snide remark about what a player is or isn’t doing, but he’ll also set goals for his team and drive them to reach it.  Earlier in the year when we had our six game road trip, Phil commented that how we performed on that trip would go a long way in determining whether or not the Lakers win the whole thing.  Did he say that because it was the truth or did he say it because he knew that he could motivate his guys to play their best against some of the league’s best teams?  Whatever his reasons, it worked and the Lakers did play some of their best ball.  He could easily be using this same tactic (with the drive for sixty wins) to motivate his players to play well coming down the stretch.  And when the team reaches that goal, I do  think we’ll see minutes reduced and a sharper focus on the little things that will help win games come playoff time.   If anything, Phil is a master at setting up people to succeed and I don’t see him firing all his bullets in the regular season when he knows that he’s got a great chance to win a title with this team this season.

A major piece to this puzzle is the guy with the bunny on his shoulders.  Andrew Bynum is the player that can not only help raise our level of play offensively and defensively, but also provide some much needed rest for the entire team.  He can be this teams stimulus package, providing an anchor in the middle and giving aid to our tired players through a trickle down effect of shored up rotations and better bench play.  And based off recent reports, he continues to progress and will return before season’s end.  Rest assured, there are answers to the issues we are seeing.  Some home cooking and the return of our injured big man should help our level of play.  That same big man and reaching a stated goal should assure rest for some of our tired players.  There are seven games left in the first season before the second one begins.  And while we may not look ready for the part right now, I see that changing very soon.

-Darius

Darius Soriano

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58 responses to Rest Assured?

  1. K made a good comment about potential rest for the team going into the playoffs in the last thread that deserves mention here:

    Looking at the schedule I notice that the Lakers will have four days off before the playoffs start since there season ends on the 14th and the NBA likes to save
    Laker playoff games foe Sunday which would be the 19th. I think the staff has noticed that and maybe that’s why they are holding back on cutting back minutes.

  2. I agree with what you wrote, and I think that once feel is satisfied that we will have HCA against every team but Cleveland (or that we don’t have a chance to get to that point) than players minutes will start to come down. Also playing at home should help with that too because the bench players should play better at home (at least I hope so).

  3. Man, that was the fairest thing I’ve read here for a minute. Fair to both sides of the ongoing war in Laker Nation. The continual saga of the “half full” vs the “half empty” debates. I’m decidedly in the half empty camp (i.e., stating obvious flaws and legitimate problems, not pessimism) and its seemed like anyone stating obvious facts about the situation have been getting blasted in the comments lately. D’s post is no nonsense truth with a practical amount of optimism. All a realist could ask for…

  4. Overall HCA is still a very real possibility. The Cavs are not infallible; they still have some challenging games ahead, including San Antonio, Boston & Orlando. If the Lake show wins out by NOT resting (which they can’t afford to do anyway because the Celts & Magic are nipping at their heels) & the Cavs stumble a few times, holding the tiebreaker is GOLD. Plus, building momentum is never a bad thing…the Lakers need that right now…play to win!

  5. I’m not too worried about Fish and Kobe. Sure Fish is old, but he’s getting more rest now and he’s a pro in everything he does. In Kobe’s case, health may be more of an issue than fatigue. Are all his injuries sufficiently healed? But again Kobe is Kobe; he can turn it on no matter what (almost).

    Then there’s Pau – now he has me worried. First of all he’s never been deep in to the play-offs like he was last year. Then there was the summer with all the games for the national team. And to top all this off: Drew gets injured, which not only leaves Pau playing insane minutes by any standard (let alone for a big man), but also has him playing these minutes as center – constantly getting banged up by guys who outweigh him by leaps and bounds in the process.

    I’m actually amazed that he’s stayed injury free so far, and that he keeps putting up big numbers night after night (while obviously not having the points come as easily to him as when he was fresh).

  6. Darius,
    I don’t take as much about the end of the 4th qtr last night as you do. One, because of what was said before – they had no big men left to guard us – and two, because our good performance was just for a very limited time frame.

    We have gotten into some really bad habits and they are the kinds of things a bad matchup early in the playoffs could really take advantage of.

    A team that is bored, tired, and doesn’t have good defensive instincts (my thought about this team) is really in the same position Dallas was two years ago. Our only insurance against this is Phil and Kobe – and I don’t feel comfortable this will be enough. This is where the Olympic games could really take their toll.

    I know Phil believes that a team that isn’t a defensive juggernaut is better of leaving the 3pt line open and clogging the middle, but we seem to be leaving the short corner 3 wide open on a very, very consistent basis. So much so that it must be a coaching decision, because of the poor 1-on-1 defensive instincts of the player. This just happens to be the most effective shot in basketball. I don’t see this issue being resolved before, or during the playoffs.

    I still think we have the most talent, but I really don’t share the common thought that we should make it to the finals rather easily this year.

    We are going to have to fight and claw our way through the playoffs this year (we swept Denver last year and I don’t see anything like this in 2009). Ariza hasn’t been through this before and I think will need an adjustment period. Lamar is Lamar and he will cost us some points and get us some points – I just hope he doesn’t have his brain farts when the momentum is starting to change (either way). I don’t want Andrew back to score; just shore up the 2nd unit defense so we get some stops and open shots for the others.

  7. Jane,

    Lakers don’t need HCA as badly as they need rest and Bynum.

  8. HCA is certainly plausible, but I’m definitely not betting at it. As Charlotte-ish Washington is to Cleveland as the Bobcats are to us, they’re still hobbled, although having Arenas and Haywood back gives them a puncher’s chance at home. San Antonio and Boston both aren’t 100% and unless we see some truly inspired ball from both, they’re not going to beat Cleveland at home. Facing Orlando on the road is definitely the biggest obstacle for Cleveland.

    Still though, we have to basically win the rest of our games to have a chance at HCA. While this is definitely plausible (5 game, 2 away), we still have Portland on the road, and Denver and Utah may decide to bring their mojo to a road game at Staples Center.

    While the possibility for HCA is still there, don’t bank on it. Betting on another team losing is never a good strategy.

  9. I feel confident that the Lakers problems stem from being tired and that the flaws we are seeing in the D and in the less fluid O are manifestations of inherent flaws whose cracks are widened by fatigue. Every team is flawed, even the 72 win Bulls, the 86 Celtics and 85 Lakers. I would say their flaws were less exploitable by the rest of the league because of two reasons. None of those 3 teams had a major injury to a major contributor and those three teams all had at least 3 major contributors to championship teams working in their prime or near it. Suppose the 85 Lakers lost Worthy for a big chunk of the season. Suppose the 86 Celtics lost Parish or the 72 win Bulls lost Rodman. None of those teams would be as fresh and it would have been very interesting to see if those teams would have been at 60 some odd wins to end the season if Walton were starting at Center for the C’s, Kukoc were the starting 4 for the Bulls or if Magic were moved to “Point Forward” and Coop was starting in the backcourt with Scott. Have any idea what the feelings would be about the Bulls chances against the Sonics in that series if Rodman were out? Would you have favored the Bulls in that series? Would the Lakers have gotten to meet, let alone beat, the C’s in 85 without Worthy? Would the C’s have beaten Houston with Walton covering Sampson or Olajuwon? Yet, here is a Lakers team that handled the C’s and Cavs (their most likely opponents in the finals) without Bynum. This is a Lakers team who probably is not favored if he were not to return but would be considered to have a fair chance to beat either of those two teams even without Bynum. I think Bynum will get added to the mix.

    I think it is understandable that our boys are tired right now. I think their collective personality lends itself to the current struggles and that once they get some rest Kobe’s shot will get some more arch, that Gasol will get his mean back, that LO will get his focus, that Ariza will make his hustle plays, that JP will take controlled 15 footers, that Farmar will mostly play within his role, and that Fish will get his legs back too. Add a 70% dose of Bynum to the mix and this team will simply punish people. They need rest and could definitely use Bynum. Other then that, this team is great.

  10. The bummer is that we are only three up on Boston and Orlando in the loss column so it’s not like the Lakers have the luxury of dialing in and resting starters, especially with readily losable games against Houston, Denver, Utah and Portland.

    Fortunately, only Portland is on the road so the bench has a decent shot of showing up in the other games (they do better at home).

    I will say that Sasha has shown signs that he is coming out of his season long funk so that is hopeful.

    Mark

  11. Yes man & BCR…I agree that rest & Bynum are important, as well as not banking on others to lose. However, if it is still mathematically possible, why not go for it? Especially since there is little chance that Kobe accepts taking games off, and probably would not react favorably to a significant decrease in minutes. He wants to compete, both now and in June, and thinks he can do both.

    We know Phil trusts KB and his self-evaluation of his physical state (demonstrated by the MANY times Phil has commented about letting Kobe decide whether to stay in or out of a game), and I don’t see him willing to engage in a battle of wills over something like this…as veterans. I understand that regular season game management is different then end of season or post-season, but Phil & Kobe are after the same ring and will figure it out.

  12. 10. Mark I hope you are right about Sasha but are you basing that on ONE 3-3 night against the Bucks? I mean he was shooting 16% on the roadie until then.

  13. j.d. Hastings April 2, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    I’m hoping the Mavs give us the equivalent of a first round bye by sucking really badly. Maybe a bit much to ask for. But with the length of that first round, a sweep can result in a week off.

  14. #6. Craig W,
    I think we’re a long way off from being like Dallas of two seasons ago (I’m assuming you mean the team that lost to GSW in the first round rather than the team that lost in the Finals). The Warriors were a terrible matchup for Dallas. GS had many more athletes and Dallas did not have one post player to take advantage of the Warriors lack of interior defense and rebounding. When looking at the teams from the West, I don’t see one team that has any clear advantage over us in any facet of the game. Of course anything can happen in any series (ask Suns fans about that), but to think that the only thing that is saving us from a Dallas like collapse is Kobe and Phil completely discounts the problems that Gasol and Odom give all the other teams in the West while also discounting the mental toughness of our team (outside of Kobe and Phil).

  15. By the way, I could see us having longer series than what we had last season. We had series go 4, 6, and 5 games – this season I could see each series going 6 games or even a 7 game series or two. However, I don’t see this as a bad thing. When looking back to last season everyone pointed to Boston’s early round struggles as an indication that they weren’t true contenders. But I think that those tough series made them more battle tested and better prepared for the adversity they’d face against the Cavs and against us. It worked out pretty well for them and I think it could be the same for us this season.

  16. I don’t think the West will be nearly as tough this year as it was last year. Which teams are playing better than they were last year? Denver, for sure, but I don’t think they’ve taken a big enough step. Same for Portland, which is also too young. Houston, maybe. SA might be more of a threat if Ginobili is healthier than he was last year, but that seems unlikely. NO, UT, and Dallas have gotten worse.

  17. 6

    “We have gotten into some really bad habits and they are the kinds of things a bad matchup early in the playoffs could really take advantage of.”

    The question I have is, where is this bad matchup? Golden State gave Dallas headaches for a while even before that playoff series 2 years ago. Which team in the West poses the same type of problem for the Lakers?

    All of the contenders from last season are either worse (San Antonio, NO) or pretty much the same (Utah, Houston) this season. Denver is better and Portland has obviously joined the party, but I don’t see either of them as a threat to the Lakers. The point is, for every flaw you can point to for the Lakers, the rest of the teams in the conference have at least 2 or 3, which is why the #1 has been sewn up with several games left in the regular season. Also, as shaky as the defense is now, I think it was worse last season.

    I don’t know how many games it will take, but looking at the field it’s hard to see anyone stopping the Lakers from making the conference finals again, especially with Bynum back in the fold. Apart from the play of the reserve guards (and I guess the possibility of fatigue affecting Kobe and Gasol) I don’t expect any of the current issues to continue into the playoffs.

  18. The Dude Abides April 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Good post Darius. Also, to add to your comment #15, not only would tougher Western Conference series help our guys be battle tested for the Finals, but the more games Andrew plays, the better game shape he will be in.

  19. So it’s just fatigue with Kobe, right? Because I was beginning to wonder if he had lost half a step in terms of quickness off the dribble. It was ticking me off seeing him struggle like that. I can’t imagine how I’ll behave once he hits the downside of his career.

    Unrelated: Phil said it, you guys probably talked about it – they miss Radmanovic. Hated the trade when it happened – a guy like that is a HUGE asset. Vlad can fall out of bed and hit three-pointers. Can’t underestimate the importance of a guy like that. And I would just rather play him than Walton – Luke doesn’t do much when he’s out there, and what he does do (play smart and pass well) we don’t need as much as what Vlad does. We already have smart, talented passers (Kobe, Odom, Pau, three of the best passers at their respective positions). Now, our best three-point shooter is probably Fisher – who’s kind of streaky, and our second best, Sasha, is totally streaky.

    But I digress.

  20. I definitely think Kobe has lost a step. Per 36 minutes, his field goal attempts are up 2 and his FT’s are down to 6.8 as opposed to last year’s 8.4. He is defintely taking more jumpers.

    This has resulted in a lower TS%, but also less turnovers. I am afraid that the still strong shooting percentage is coming back to earth – and then some. I hope he actually became a better shooter because he knew he wasn’t as quick, but it seems a lot like a flukey jump in long two-point field goal percentage.

  21. I really hate to admit it, but Antwonomous is right. This team misses the legitimate 3 point threat that Radmanovic can bring. That’s not to say he actually was a threat before he got traded (or during last year’s post-season), but it was still a bad trade made solely for monetary reasons and has been negative for the squad.

    Probably more importantly, Sasha is supposed to be developing into that player for us. The dependable instant offense off-the-bench guy who is destined to be the X factor in 2-3 playoff games every year with clutch shooting. A la game 1 of the Spurs series last year. Unfortunately, he’s nowhere near that guy right now.

  22. Watching the Cav/Wiz game. Close, still too early to call, but Wiz are up by 7. What’s with the “Zypher” on the Wiz’s jersey?

  23. meant “Zyphers”.

  24. Do we rest or not? Wizs are finishing off the Cavs and unless they have a major breakdown in the next 28.6 secs, the Cavs lose this one. That’ll put us only 2 games behind.

  25. Wiz gonna pull this out! AND the cavs have a road game at the magic tomorrow…the door is ajar for the Lakers

  26. Wizards ahead by six with 25 seconds remaining. Yep, they’re Cleveland’s Charlotte. And magic, they were known as the Zyphers in the 50s when they were in Chicago (before they moved to Washington and became the Bullets).

    And people are saying we miss Vlad? Are people forgetting his boneheaded plays already? He would be hot-and-cold like the rest of the team. Walton plays much better, knows the offensive system, can handle the ball, and has an underrated post game.

  27. Thanks BCR.

    Vlad is/was a cog in the machine that is the Lakers. He’s a role player who has his role, to sink 3’s. He’s like Sasha, Powell, Ariza…who each have their role to do the 1 or 2 things they do well. They’re not stars because they are inconsistent and have more boneheaded moments. The thing you hope to get out of role players is for them to be more consistent, if not then to at play a role in winning some games. Step up every once in a while and cut down on the boneheaded plays.

    If at least 1 or 2 of them step up in every game when other role players are having off nights, then that’s not so bad. Last season there were times when Vlad picked us up in a game with his shots and some nights it was Sasha or Farmar. They were never on all the time or all at the same time.

    You just hope they don’t all break down at the same time for long stretches.
    With the bench struggling the last couple of months, it would’ve have been nice to have Vlad. I think with Vlad, we would have at least 2 more wins than we do now. So I’m not saying he’s a savior or was a great player, star, or even consistent every night, but he could put down the 3’s every once in a while. Like Phil said, basket-wise the trade hurt the Lakers, money-wise it was a good trade. But is his price tag worth the potential 2-3 more wins?

  28. Cavs lost, so do we push?

  29. I don’t miss Rad’s inconsistency. Luke is more efficient just by being more efficient consistently in the team game. Trevor is a ten-fold better defender and hustler. Rad’s head was his biggest obstacle in LA.

    Lakers are just bored. I can’t read Kobe.. but I’m 100% certain he’s playing at only about 66% effort-wise. He is definitely saving himself. I think we’ll see more penetration from him, and that will get our shooters the open looks needed to fire high-percentage shots, doubling the effect by boosting their confidence. Still, they gotta start picking up momentum heading into the playoffs..

  30. Vlade was clearly about next year – and Lamar and/or Trevor. If we think about it that way, I say the trade was well worth it. You can’t have everything and we may have lost a bit this year – as things have worked out – but he sure wasn’t playing much when traded, so……..

    magic’s comments about role players is spot on and this is where a bit of luck plays into the equation. If our role players all go to sleep when the playoffs start, we will not be visiting the finals this year. That is just a fact. We need at least someone to step up.

    The only dependable role player is Luke, because his job is to run the offense and pass – not to score. He is pretty consistent about that, but with certain combinations on the floor Luke is less valuable. I don’t like him in with Lamar, because they both do much the same thing and, when you pass the ball to LO in traffic with a flat or bounce pass, you have a much higher likelyhood of a block/turnover.

  31. We always try to win games. Doesn’t mean we play Kobe/Pau 40+ minutes. But we still “push” in that every night, we go out onto the court to win.

    I think the “fatigue” issues are a little overblown. KB24 is clearly saving himself for the playoffs, and he’s done it so many times in his career. I’m guessing he understands his own limitations by now, and he’s acting accordingly. Pau is a smart athlete, who always plays within himself, and if he needs rest, he’ll take it. As of now Magic Gasol seems like he’s doing perfectly fine.

  32. Igor Avidon,
    You have to remember – Kobe never coasts through a game; only sometimes on defense. Kobe has had more bball minutes on him over the last 1.5 yrs than ever in his life, his total milage is piling up, he has been playing injured for over a year, when tired in the finals last year his jumpshot deserted him, and he has such tremendous focus that he uses more energy than the average bear.

    Take all that together and it is not hard to imagine why he would 1) practice his jumpshot more, reduce the drives to the basket in traffic to avoid further injury – think Dwayne Wade – , and be appearing a bit leg weary over the last few weeks.

    The best thing for Kobe will be surgery over the summer and forced time off – whether he feels that way or not.

  33. had the feeling the wizards had something off the hat against cleveland. if they fall to orlando, and maybe another one in sa, then good for us. i suggest let’s take things easy and do our thing, leaving much of the judging to the staff instead of keeping too close attention to what’s happening in the other conference. let’s keep winning the way the lakers should, and start dominating if we can. with us resting people, that may not hold and we may drop off a game or two of the last seven, but then if it preserves and prepares us, then i’d rather have 63-64 wins instead of more. we also ought to take a closer look at our western competition and i still am iffy until i see how we do against portland again.

    great post darius. i like the warning you leave at the end — things can look better than what they are now and for this i say that adding bynum is more than just good news, it’s a relief, a must and i think fair for the lakers to have him this time around. i am more comfortable now than i do about him last year and even more if i were a celtic fan seeing garnett (all the best in his recovery). GO LAKERS!

  34. i remember someone in this forum has predicted that cavs will lose at least one of two games between them of the upcoming schedule.

    and wiz just done it.

    props to the guy.

    one thing i would like to raise though.
    it seems that cavs relies heavily on perimeter shooting. i didn’t have enough statistics knowledge to back this up.
    but this type of play usually won’t be a success in playoff.
    although almost all their outside shots are a result of a drive to the paint and kick out or post entry and kick out, which is an ideal way of creating outside shots.
    (i also remember that during cavs-lakers game in their home court, PJ was even saying that although cavs were hot in the 1st half, they will cool down)

    i wonder if this has any implications later in the playoff.

    lastly, LBJ is MVP for this year.
    anyone who says otherwise should really check their objectivity.
    as much as i want kobe won his second consecutive mvp, LBJ is just too good a player in at least 80 games (2 games when LBJ played Lakers, i think Kobe won the individual match-up)

  35. “…I was dead serious about Cleveland losing to Washington in one of their next two meetings. Keep in mind, Cleveland only won by 4 in December on their home court, and lost by 3 at Washington. As I remember, that December loss also came down to the wire, with some late game Lebron-heroics required to pull out the win for the Cavs. Couple that with the return of Gilbert Arenas, and I expect those two remaining Washington games on Cleveland’s schedule to be their potential downfall.”

    Who said this? Oh yea, it was me.

    clutch824, I’m waiting for my due :-P.

  36. they still play the wizards again..YAY..imagine them handing the cavs their 2nd home loss oh mann i would laugh so hard

  37. I also predicted the Cavs would lose a few games,last week. I still feel HCA Is possible

  38. From the times

    “Jackson was asked if the Lakers had a chance to overtake Cleveland for the best record, would he play Bryant and Gasol 35 minutes or more in a game?

    “Yeah,” Jackson said quickly.”

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-lakers3-2009apr03,0,4521819.story

  39. http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-lakers-fyi2-2009apr02,0,6961721.story

    “We just don’t want to loosen up so much that Boston and Orlando, they also pass us by,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.

    Kobe, “I don’t worry about it,” he said. “Lace them up and play. Don’t think about resting or nothing like that. Just think about playing.”

    I think we can conclude that with at least 4 of the games (Houston, Denver, Portland, Utah) that are left and from the way our bench has been playing, we’ll be seeing Pau and Kobe playing 39+ mins. Unless there’s no chance that Boston and Orlando can catch us and the Cavs seal the deal, it seems there will be no rest for the weary.

  40. other than another game against wiz, i think cavs could also lose to orlando tonight.

    there’s no way ilaguskas can contain howard.

  41. I agree with many posters. Yes Kobe is a little tired, but I think he is pacing himself for the playoffs. He is super competitive and will try to win every time he is on the court, but at the same time he knows what the goal is and has been doing this for a long time so he knows how to pace himself. I am not worried about Kobe he will be ready for the playoffs. The bigger concern will be re-integrating Bynum and getting his timing and stamina back so that he can be the defensive anchor that we need.

  42. Zehpid,
    I wasn’t ducking you, I remembered your post. It was the main reason I watched the game. I almost got on last night just to give you your props. I just “knew” Cleveland would come back, Arenas was running from contact from crying out loud. But the Zephyrs came to play. You were right.

    The worst thing is, I’ve followed this fake rivalry from the jump, but I didn’t think it would matter. I bow to your wisdom…for part 1. Our business is not concluded until April 8th. You said the Cavs would lose both games. I still say there’s no way the Wiz get a win in Ohio.

  43. And I’ll stop misspelling your name at some point. Z, e, p, h, i, d.

  44. After quite a bit of talk about our potential matchup with Dallas… how certain can we be that they’ll remain #8? No, I’m not talking about the Suns moving up – I’m talking about a team by the name of Utah who’s only one game ahead of Dallas now. I don’t want to see D-Will in the 1st round.

    Then again, I have faith in our squad, and perhaps we don’t want things to be too easy on our way to the championship.

  45. Let me qualify what I said. I said the Cavs would lose “at least one of the remaining two games.” While I did say at the end that “those two remaining Washington games on Cleveland’s schedule to be their potential downfall,” I meant to imply that both those games would be difficult and highly-possible losses.

    However, now that Washington has beaten Cavs in Washington, it’s going to be rather difficult for them to win in Cleveland, moreso than if they had lost in Washington. Why is this? Because I believe in the power of psychology.

    If you remember, back in 2006, these two teams were pretty much dead-locked, going at it in one of the best first round series ever as the 4 and 5 seeds. However, over the course of the next 3 years, these two teams have gone in completely different directions. Cleveland has slowly gotten better, and Washington has slowly gotten worse, until now when Cleveland is the best team in the league and Washington is the worst (record-wise). This had to hit Washington really hard, especially all the guys that have been there the whole time (Butler, Jamison, Arenas). So psychologically, they had a lot more to gain from beating the Cavs then the Cavs had from beating the Wiz.

    Now, after they’ve beaten them once, I believe Cleveland will re-focus, and really lock in on their next meeting on April 8th. Given Cleveland enormous home-court advantage, plus the added motivation of having their streak busted by the Wiz, the Cavs will probably come out with much more fire and defensive intensity.

    I believe this will come into play for the Lakers as well. Playing all these teams on the road that they have no psychological impetus to win against, they play sort of lackadaisically, going through the motions. However, the games to watch will be:

    tonight against Houston (Kobe v. Artest, Round 2)
    @ Sac (early season upset)
    @ Portland (blow-out loss last time we went there).

    If the Lakers come with zero intensity to those games, I think we have a problem. These are the games that they should really really want to win, so they should come out and give a strong showing. That being said, if they come out limp, we’ll know that they just don’t care about the regular season anymore, which will be a huge issue, given the fact that turning on the switch from bored to intense is not as easy as a lightswitch.

  46. I think it’s about time to start resting and waiting for the opportunity to watch Boston beat up the Cavs in the Eastern Finals, in 7 physical games. Then we’ll still have HCA vs. Boston and Boston gets to sweat it out with the Cavs, not us. That is, IF we can come to play in the playoffs against the likes of San Antonio, Utah, Denver, Houston. Recent games vs. 76ers, Bobcats, and other weak opponents has Laker fan concerned but not worried. We always step it up a big notch or two in the second season.

    Always enjoy reading the blog, but man, for someone who rights (haha) for a living (or at least a pasttime) “it’s” with an apostrophe = “it is.” Substitute “it is” whenever you see “it’s” used in this blog entry and you will see how out of place it’s (“it is”) :). That can be accepted in someone’s reply but in the main article? Repeatedly? Make the mental shift.

  47. While HCA isn’t out of reach, I hope we focus on smaller things within our control on a game to game basis. Crisper rotations, better bench play, shooting confidence, Kobe going to the paint, Gasol being more aggressive. The exhaustively discussed metaphor of the light switch can only be overcome one small way at a time. Saying “we will turn it on” doesn’t do much but motivate acutely for the game, which will fade too quickly to have real impacts on the way we play. I hope the guys can tap into their fundamentals, go back to roots and the mentality of playing basketball the “right” way. Slowly, then, we will see some real and sustainable progress.

  48. Cleveland beat Orlando a couple weeks ago at home, which ended in a BS three second call for the James’s to secure the win.

    After the loss to the Dino’s at home, and the thought of that loss against Cleveland a couple weeks ago and Cleveland on a back to back….who knows by the end of the night we could be 1 game back with Cleveland playing the Spurs Sunday.

  49. I fully believe that fatigue, mental and physical, is a main factor in whatever we feel is “wrong” with the Lakers.

    I know Pau isn’t a great defender, but he was playing much better D in the 1st half of the season. The thing with Pau is he has to work on the defensive end. It doesn’t come easy to him, and he hasn’t rotated to contest shots at all lately. He’s just not hustling on the defensive end as he should. Fatigue is definitely playing a factor.

    Mentally, I know the playoffs will instantly revitalize mental fatigue or boredom, as well as tonight’s game should. Physically, I’m a bit leery, because we have only one day off in between the rest of our games, and 2 of them are in aback to back with Denver at home and Portland away. Will the 4 days off be enough to rest? Will they come out flat to start the Playoffs?

    I know Kobe will get his jumper back. I’m hoping that Pau will pick up defensive intensity, because we cannot afford for teams to repeatedly take it to the rim as they have been lately. Right at Pau and LO. Portland, Charlotte, Philly, , and to lesser extent Milwaukee and Atlanta all attacked the rim with success.

    Shaq called out Robin Lopez to put someone on the ass when they are laying it up and dunking it on you and laughing. Although I’m not calling out for anything dirty or flagrant to happen, there should be some sense of hesitation when opposing teams think about going to the rim. Pau and LO have been lackadaisical or weak in attempts to protect the paint. Nicolas Batum feels he can point out that he dunked on Pau. A 19 year old French rookie? (No disrespect to the French.) This has to stop come Playoff time. We can’t rely on Bynum coming back. Which leads to the biggest problem. The bench.

    What was the best bench in the NBA is now average at best. If Bynum comes back, I hope that Trevor will go back to the bench with him to solidify the 2nd unit. LO and Ariza being starters has really affected team dynamic. I’m all for Luke starting with LO, Kobe, Fish and Pau, if it means Bynum, Ariza, Sasha, Powell, and Farmar can resume being the best bench in the NBA.

    If Bynum can’t come back, then I feel Farmar’s minutes should be cut. He stands to benefit the most from Andrew’s return. Bynum’s absence should mean a tighter leash, and we can’t afford for Jordan to stink up the joint in the Playoffs.

  50. OK, Zephid, we’re good then. There’s basically no way the Cavs will have that hiccup at home. If they somehow do, I’ll give you a shoutout. About those 3 games, Portland maybe, but I seriously doubt they’ll have any spark collectively against Sac. Maybe Kobe. This team has proven it’s just not made of the stuff where you make those kind of statements against ALL teams and not just big games.

    And yes, there’s no lightswitch, which is why I don’t understand the opinion that once the playoffs start, guys will become effective. What magic said above about role players nailed it, so nuff said.

  51. wondahbap,
    I don’t think you will see Walton with the first unit again. Besides the defensive needs of the first unit, Walton and Lamar together is not a really effective combination – they both do some of the same things.

  52. Bench woes: The problem is the current Lakers bench (Farmar, Sasha, Luke, Powell, and MBenga) does not have any player who can penetrate or fill the lane at will.

    Farmar can penetrate, but it throws the triangle off unless someone switches to his spot so they can recover on D. When he does slash, he has 3 guys playing the post. He really needs to have an LO, Ariza, Kobe, Bynum, etc. to cut into the lane from the weak side.

  53. I wonder if it’s, Pau doesn’t defend as well because of Fatigue, or Pau is energy and not running out..

    I get the impression, on Kobe and Pau, that they are not going at it at 100%. And, I hope that’s it, versus, them being Fatigued. That would explain many things we see on the court for them 2.

  54. Going to the game tonight. Hope Kobe and Artest definitely jaw at each other and that Yao starts a fight and goes into the stands…

    Back to the discussion..

    I think once Bynum gets back the rotations stay as currently constructed. Ariza works more effectively when he’s with playmakers ie. Kobe, Lamar, and Pau.

    I’m assuming Bynum is coming off the bench and will need Luke to help initiate the post pass and help him get early touches and establish Bynum down there. But I guess we’ll find that out in a few weeks.

  55. Rockets post up.

    Also, I will be at the game tonight, so expect a fair amount of comments and tweets.

  56. Anonymous,

    “I’m assuming Bynum is coming off the bench and will need Luke to help initiate the post pass and help him get early touches and establish Bynum down there.”

    Great point. I failed to look at it that way. That does make more sense.

  57. 54. & 56. I don’t know how the rotations will work themselves out when the Bynum returns. However, when Bynum got hurt, Luke and Andrew were starting while LO and Ariza were coming off the bench so I don’t see why we couldn’t go back to that rotation. Remember, the way that Phil was substituting, the first subs off the bench were LO/Ariza/Farmar (with LO coming in first and a couple of minutes later Ariza/Farmar coming in – Sasha would usually come in with a minute or so left in the first quarter). That means for a good portion of the first quarter we saw Farmar, Kobe, Ariza, LO, and Gasol on the floor. This would give Ariza and Farmar plenty of minutes with Kobe, LO, and Gasol. Then when Gasol goes to the bench we’d see Farmar, Sasha, Ariza, LO, and Bynum get significant time together. Essentially, I don’t see why LO and Ariza could not go back to the bench and we go with the line up that makes our starting unit strong while also elevating our bench back to elite status with LO/Ariza. It may not go that way and Phil may decide that Bynum/Luke stay as reserves, but the old way was working just fine.

  58. LOL Artest. What a train.

    *THUD* Artest didn’t even look phased.