Archives For April 2009


• Great, focused defense from the Lakers. Every game. Every quarter.

• For the Lakers to see as little of Deron Williams as possible.

• As joem said in the comments, for San Antonio, Houston and Portland to win tonight so they can all be tied with Denver and the NBA can spend a day explaining its tiebreaker rules to the world.

• More articles like this one.

• Someone having to use a towel to get the gel off their hands after accidentally touching Andrei Kirilenko’s hair.

• Andrew Bynum running and beating other bigs down the floor for early, deep, unstoppable post position.

• The Heat/Hawks series to go seven games.

• Lots of tweets from LakersNation (if you’re on Twitter you should be following).

• More ShanWOW!

• Kobe going jab step, jab step, pull up and when the defense reacts a quick pass into Pau in the post that catches everyone napping and results in an easy bucket with the left hand.

• Less than 1,563,693 TNT promos for their upcoming shows.

• Less than 1,563,693 stupid things said by Charles Barkley.

• The Machine from the corner for the open three. A lot.

• Derrick Rose to virtually single-handedly win a series.

• For the Lakers to see as little of Brandon Roy as possible.

• Derek Fisher to step up and hit a clutch shot in the fourth quarter. Actually, this one is pretty much a given.

• Doug Collins talking about when he coached Jordan. Actually, this one is pretty much a given, too.

• Boston and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. That will be an epic series.

• Another title for Tex Winter before he walks away.

• A parade down Figueroa.

Preview & Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  April 14, 2009

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 1
Records: Lakers 64-17 (1st in the West) Jazz 48-33 (8th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.5 (3rd in league) Jazz 110.0 (8th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (6th in league) Jazz 107.0 (10th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Jazz Deron Williams, Matt Harpring, Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

ShanWOW: It’s official — Shannon Brown is now ShanWOW as far as I’m concerned. There were a lot of great nicknames suggested but you have to go with anything linked to a towel made in Germany. You know the Germans always make good stuff.

And expect ShanWOW to get some time on Deron Williams in a bit of an experiment tonight. Even those still fully in the Jordan Farmar corner admit that D-Will is a bad machup for him, so expect ShanWOW to get a taste in advance of the first round.

Just how serious is this game? I don’t really buy the part about resting the Lakers starters tonight — they are off from here until Sunday, the longest break they have had since the All Star game. Legs will be fresh come Sunday (I think we can safely assume a Sunday game).

But on the other hand, this is a good game to get some run for the subs, to not overtax anyone, to back the foot off the gas a little. But do you really want to do that against the team you are likely to see come Sunday? Darius thinks not.

A while back there was a brief discussion on these boards about us being like that Mavs team a couple of years ago that won the West but lost in the first round to the Warriors. I argued against that as I don’t see any team giving us problems the way that the Dubs had the Mav’s number that year. However, we do face a similar issue against these Jazz as we’re the team that can beat them in our last game and then have them as our first round opponent. My point is that we have the chance to further the gulf in their belief that they can play with us. It’s been noted that the Jazz are a bad road team. It’s also obvious that we’re a better team than the Jazz, but we all still acknowledge that the Jazz are a dangerous team. So, I say beat them…not by doing anything special or by throwing new wrinkles into the game plan, but by winning because we’re better. I don’t want the Jazz to break out of any slump in their last game and while also giving them any confidence in their ability to win on the road.

New Lakers Blog: The driving force behind respectKobe.com how has a new Lakers blog as part of SBN — Silver Screen and Roll. Check it out, and welcome aboard. This is a fun time to be a Lakers fan and blogger.

Kobe Doin’ Work: I did not hold out high hopes for Spike Lee’s documentary, but these promo clips give me hope.

The Jazz Coming In: We all know that on paper, the Jazz should be pushing the Lakers at the top of the Western Conference. And I don’t believe the issues are with the coach, who knows how to do everything (save beat MJ).

They come into this game with motivation — the motivation to avoid us in the first round. If Utah can win (on the second night of a back-to-back) and Dallas or New Orleans loses their last game, the Jazz avoid the Lakers. So where is Utah’s head right now? Check out what Ross Siler said the other day after the Golden State loss:

“There are still two games left in the regular season, followed by at least four games in a first-round playoff series, but Saturday’s loss felt like a season-ender for the Jazz. Yes, there’s a chance to regroup, but the Jazz seem unlikely to do so in time for a turnaround. They lost to a Warriors team with only seven healthy players and missing its four leading scorers. Those seven included four who went undrafted, three who are rookies, four who played in the Rocky Mountain Revue last summer and two with D-League backgrounds.

If you didn’t watch the Jazz blowout of the Clippers last night, know that for about the first five minutes those same Jazz showed up and trailed the Clippers. Then Sloan called a time out, the Jazz got their heads screwed on, Barron Davis was a disaster and Utah cruised to a win.

So which team shows up tonight in LA?

Keys To The Game: You ever watch the first quarter of an NFL preseason game? The starters are in and they want to perform well, but mostly they want to avoid injury and get their work in and get off the field. Meanwhile, coaches are trying to give nothing away and they run basic plays against vanilla defenses.

Welcome to tonight’s Lakers/Jazz tilt. The coaches may try out a matchup or two — Shannon Brown on D-Will, for example — but if they have anything they really think will work, it will stay in the locker room. If the Lakers win, it will be more about the players executing the basic offense than the coaches throwing in any twists.

The Jazz work hard to protect the paint on defense, so if you get the ball to Bynum/Gasol inside there will be open kick-out jumpers. The Lakers need to hit them. The Lakers also can and should run some on the Jazz, particularly the bigs — make Okur and Boozer run on the second night of a back-to-back.

I could try to give a lot more detail, but like the coaches we need to hold some stuff back for the rest of the week.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start with the rare Tuesday night TNT game.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  April 13, 2009


In the comments, we’ve been talking about what Shannon Brown brings that Jordan Farmar doesn’t — defense.

To back that up, here are the 82games.com numbers:

Opposing two guards are shooting 37% against Brown, and have a PER of 10.3. (To be fair, that is a small sample size and is a bit dated).

Against PGs, Farmar is allowing them to shoot 45.7% with a PER of 16.7.

Watching Brown last night, he does a much better job getting over or around high picks, takes away driving lanes better, uses his body to keep offensive players out of position, is longer, and closes out better than Farmar. Plus, Jordan can guard only PGs, Brown can do the one, two and maybe the three (against a team going small). And, he is not hurting the offense, which is key.

If it is Utah in the first round, I agree with the sentiment that Brown is going to get a lot of time on D-Will. Farmar will get his chances during the playoffs, just not sure it will be much against Utah.

• If you want more Shannon Brown, Andrew Kamenetzky (the one the women like) sat down Brown and did a Q&A published at Lakers Blog:

Andrew Kamenetzky: Your minutes have been steadily increasing over the last 4-5 games. Where’s your comfort level at right now, in terms of what you’re doing on the floor???

Shannon Brown: Every game I think I get more and more comfortable. Seeing how I can attack on defense, seeing how I can attack on offense. Just going out there and trying to execute the game plan.

• And as was said last night in the comments, credit Mitch Kupchak for getting Brown thrown in the Radmanovic deal. From the little I had seen, I expected nothing from him, and he is proving to be a valuable asset, one we’d like to have back next year. I still don’t think he is the long-term answer at the position, but he could be a solid number two.

• I think Kelly Dwyer can walk on water, and not just because of paragraphs like this:

28 bench minutes from Lamar Odom (eight points, five rebounds, four assists, a steal, two blocks, zero turnovers), and while he wasn’t offering eye-popping stats, he was bringing the sort of guidance that made him my Sixth Man of the Year for the first few weeks of this season.
Odom does so much for that offense and defense off the bench, but you just have to watch the games to know, because he’s often the most important player in a play that won’t give him a point or an assist, and help defense doesn’t show up in the box score unless he rejects the shot.

• Does Shannon Brown need a nickname? Reader Lawrence suggests SBDUNKS! Other thoughts?

• I wish I were at Dodger opening day…..

Records: Lakers 63-17 (1st in West); Grizzlies 23-56 (12th in West)
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 112.8 (3rd); Grizzlies 103.6 (28th)
Defensive Efficiency: Lakers 104.9 (6th); Grizzlies 109.6 (21st)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Fisher, Kobe, Ariza, Gasol, Bynum; Grizzlies: Conley, Mayo, Gay, Arthur, Gasol.

Thoughts on the Portland Loss:

This loss hurts on a few fronts. First, is the obvious implications regarding home court versus Cleveland. We are now two games behind Cleveland in the loss column and I don’t see them losing two of their remaining three games, especially with only of them away from home (vs. Boston, at Indy, vs. Philly). I was probably one of the strongest advocates of going for home court till the end, believing strongly that we will probably play Cleveland in the finals and that home court could be determinative given how close the teams are in talent. This has been debated to death on the boards, so I don’t want to belabor the point. I’ll just say that my gut feeling is that when teams are fairly equally yoked it is very rare that one team wins in 5 and thus having the final two games at home under the 2-3-2 format is a monstrous advantage. In support of that point, note that since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1985, the road team has only closed out on the home team’s floor in a game 6 or 7 three times. In other words, if the home team can get through games 3-5 away to return home, they almost always prevail. If we play Cleveland, I just don’t see us closing them out in 5 games, and that makes life pretty difficult. But, that’s putting the cart well before the horse.

The second ramification of the loss is psychological. I wrote on this after the Boston and Cleveland games in February, but I believe that psychological edges matter in basketball. The most talented team does not always win. Sometimes it is the team that believes in itself – or that least doubts itself. Remember back to the old Lakers-Kings series, when Sacramento had the home court and seemingly more talented teams. On paper, they should have broken through at least once. But they never believed they could and thus Peja and Christie and Webber kept missing the key shots and free throws while Kobe and Horry and Fox and Fisher kept making theirs. Talent gave way to psychology. The same thing happened in game 6 of the finals last year (not that Boston wasn’t the better team, but they weren’t 30 points better – they were just 30 points more confident). I’m not saying that this will happen with Portland and us, or that Portland necessarily has the mental edge, but I do think they’ve implanted a seed of doubt and that concerns me.

Darius also raised a good point about why Portland matches up with us so well on paper:

In the past Portland is a team that we’ve discussed as being built in the Spurs model (I even remember a discussion I had with Kurt and on the boards stating as much), but I actually think they’re built more in our mold and it’s the reason that they match up with us so well. I mean, Kobe/Roy, Blake/Fisher, Outlaw-Batum/Ariza, Aldridge/Gasol, Oden/Drew, Fernandez/Sasha, Bayless/Farmar … all of these guys play almost the exact role for their respective team and are also similar players. The only guys that stand out as not having a direct counterpart (who actually play meaninful minutes) are Walton/LO on our side (and Joel on their side), but those guys are actually unique players across the entire league. LO being an all court PF doing tons of guard things and Luke being a pass first, post up SF who has a tremendous feel for offensive basketball through an understanding of angles and how to play around the basket with and with out the ball (and Joel really is an Oden clone but with a lower offensive ceiling). Anyways, just an observation.

The thing that most concerned me from the game itself is our crunch time over-reliance on Kobe at the expense of the set offense. We had our most success in the second quarter when we pounded the ball inside, took advantage of Gasol, Drew, and Odom’s power-skill advantage, and ran the set offense through them. I understand that Kobe is our closer and has earned the right to take the game into his hands, but why abandon going inside and running the triangle with 5-6 minutes left in the game rather than just for the last few possessions. When you run the Kobe-Gasol high pick and roll for that long you let the opponent know what’s coming and make it easier for them to take your best options away. Too often the result is a contested long Kobe jumper against long, agile defenders (Batum, Outlaw, Roy). Why not keep running things through Gasol until nearer the end – who is so efficient and such a good decision maker? You could make a strong argument that Gasol has replaced Kobe as the better focal point of the offense. Why not feed Kobe the ball within the flow of the offense, when he can get it lower on the block or in a better position to attack and set up others? We saw too many “hero” shots from Kobe down the stretch. We all know he can make those, but given our weapons he doesn’t have to anymore. It’s tough to overcome a 9-24 performance on the road.

Bynum:

I’m very encouraged by Drew’s play. He played 31 minutes in a road back to back and seemed pretty locked in throughout. He lost his legs at the end and was perhaps a bit prone to chucking (especially from the high post early in the clock), but he was also very aggressive, didn’t shy away from contact, and clearly gave Portland problems in the first half. I can envision him being dominant in 3-4 weeks, and that surprises me. If so, we will be in business for the crucial playoff series.

Memphis:

First, I want to review the Gasol trade with the benefit of a little hindsight. Memphis got absolutely blasted at the time. I’m sure many still believe that’s right, but I think the trade is much more of a win-win than Memphis gets credit for. The Grizzlies accomplished several things in trading Pau: (1) long term financial relief – they cut Gasol’s $60M remaining contract and have the league’s lowest payroll this year (a must given their revenue issues); (2) cap flexibility – they’ll be over $20 million under the cap this summer (whether they spend it is another story); (3) lose games to get a better draft pick – if they kept Pau they would have won several more games and not been in a position to draft Mayo, their #1 building block; and (4) acquire young, cheap talent and draft picks – they landed a center of the future in Marc Gasol, Darrel Arthur (with the Lakers pick), and have one more pick to come (Crittenton didn’t work out). Many say that Chicago was offering more with some kind of Nocioni + Gordon/Hinrich package, and maybe that’s true (I question whether Reinsdorf was truly willing to pony up and take on the long term salary), but would Memphis really be in a better position locked into those longer contracts and no man’s land status (too good to rebuild and too bad to contend)? I say, give me Marc Gasol, a few draft picks, the shot at Mayo, and all the cap flexibility.

The key to it all was the inclusion of Marc, who really has developed into an extremely productive NBA rookie. He’s still only 24 and is averaging 11.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks on 53/72% in 31 minutes a game. He’s gotten better as the year progresses, upping his stats to 14.4 and 7.5 on 56% shooting in 15 March games. He’s 6th among rookies in PER at 16.67 (and one of those above him, Speights, doesn’t get enough playing time to really be valued more). When I see Gasol play, you see so many of his brother’s strengths, even if he lacks the same absurd length and agility – quiet efficiency, solid screens, great hands and passes, soft touch, unselfish almost to a fault, etc. He’s not going to be a superstar, but you can win a title with someone like that as your starting center.

The Grizzlies are playing much better of late than their season long record reveals. They have won 6 of their last 9, with two of the losses by three points to elite teams (Portland and Orlando). They are not a team to be taken lightly. During this stretch, all of the Grizzlies young building blocks have finally lived up to their considerable potential. Over the last 10 games, Gay is averaging 19.7 points on 50% shooting (48 from three); Mayo is averaging 18 and 4.9 assists on 46% shooting (90% from FT); Conley is averaging 16.4, 4.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists on 50% shooting (53 from three); and Gasol has continued his steady, efficient play. While Oklahoma City has gotten all of the futures buzz, you get the sense that Memphis is also on the verge of breaking through. If the lottery envelopes bounce right, the young nucleus continues to develop, and their owner allows them to use some of that cap space (especially with so few buyers out there), then they could put together a really nice, young, balanced team. Put in Blake Griffin at PF…

Despite their recent strong play, I think they are probably too small on the front line and too undisciplined defensively to beat us if we pound it inside and run the offensive smoothly. Look for Bynum to break out as Memphis doesn’t have anyone to match his size inside.

–Reed

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
Records: Lakers 63-16 (1st in the West) Trailblazers 50-28 (4th in the West, tied with Spurs)
Offensive ratings: 112.6 (3rd in league) Trailblazers 113.8 (1st in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.6 (5th in league) Trailblazers 108.6 (17th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Trailblazers Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, Nicolas Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla

Lakers notes: For the first time in eons, Kobe Bryant will not be the most hated Laker in the arena tonight. Congratulations Trevor! The good news, in my limited dealings with Ariza, I don’t think boos or anything else will bother him in the least.

On another note, a few people were surprised last night when I said I thought the Lakers would lose tonight’s game in Portland. Let me explain. It is not that I think the Blazers are a better team than the Lakers or that LA can’t win in the Rose Garden (although it is not easy).

But every NBA team faces some scheduling quirks that make a few games almost unwinable. The obvious example is the teams that play in Los Angeles one night then in altitude at Denver the next night — Popovich sat all of the Big Three when it was on the Spurs schedule this year.

For the Lakers, this is pretty close. A late night game followed by a flight where the Lakers got to bed at 3 am in Portland and so not even a morning shoot around gets in. Portland is a good team, give then an advantage like that and they are almost impossible for anyone to beat.

The Lakers will have Andrew Bynum back — he looked solid if a bit rusty last night. His timing was off, he was missing some rebounds he normally anticipates and gets, but that is to be expected. The good news was he seemed to move very well. And while his minutes were limited he didn’t seem to labor too much. Of course, tonight on a back-to-back could be different.

The Trailblazers Coming In: John Hollinger is among those that think the Blazers are the second best team in the West, and I think we are now starting to see the team that the Blazers will become in a couple years emerge.

To get a little more insight into the Blazers, I asked Sean of the Oregon Live Blazers blog a quick question:

There seems to be a growing confidence in both Blazers fans and in the team itself. How does tonight’s game play into that? What has to happen in the playoffs for that growth to continue into next season?

Anytime the Blazers can beat the Lakers it’s going to make this team (and fan base) feel better about itself. The Blazers have been playing so well lately (save for the Houston game and a quarter here and there) a win tonight would just help keep the momentum going. Finishing the season strong would just increase the confidence and belief that even though they are the youngest playing rotation in the NBA, they can still make some noise in the postseason.

Making it into the playoffs is a huge first step to next season’s continued growth. It was the preseason goal for the entire organization and mission accomplished. But the thing is, winning 50 games (maybe more) and finishing the season in the fashion they have, this team feels they can really do something now. It’s a quiet confidence, but you can sense it. Whether the Blazers make it out of the first round or not, it’s all about experience at this point. The Blazers just need this experience of playing playoff basketball, which we know is much different than the regular season, to build off and use next season. Plus, this will give Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan a better sense of what this team is all about and where tweaks may or may not need to be made. You learn a lot about your team in the post season. And as you can tell, everyone around here is excited about it.

You can see my answers to his questions here.

Keys To The Game: Slowing the Blazers starts with slowing Brandon Roy. In a game this close to the playoffs, it is a great night to try a number of different things on Roy and see how he reacts, who has success. I would like to see the long Trevor Ariza get a shot on him .

The Blazers beat the Lakers up here last game with a pretty simple formula — Roy (or another guard) would drive the lane (not getting enough resistance from the guards) and then the Lakers defense would collapse then the ball would kick out to a jump shooter. The Blazers love the jumper, and they are good at it. First, only one Laker center needs to protect the rim. Next, the Lakers have to stay with and challenge these shooters — Gasol (and/or LO) have to stay with Aldridge and make him out the ball on the floor. Don’t leave Blake at the three-point line.

The Blazers do play at a faster pace then they get statistical credit for, but they still do not run much. The Lakers should. Especially the bigs, more of Bynum running the floor and getting deep post position before the defense sets would be great.

Last meeting the Blazers defense did a great job of contesting jumpers on the perimeter. The Lakers did a bad job of countering that by getting the ball inside to Gasol (who looked tired in that game) and now Bynum. Soften them up with body blows inside, that will open up the wings. Inside out tonight, inside out.

The Lakers must crash the defensive glass hard — not just Bynum/Gasol/Odom Walton, Kobe and Ariza too. Przybilla alone had seven offensive boards last game, that can’t happen.

Where you can watch: KCAL9 in LA with a 7 pm tip off. Nationally, League Pass and the other usual suspects.