Game 5 and Acceptance

Kurt —  May 13, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets NBA Game 5 Western Conference semifinals in Los Angeles
Nearly a year-and-a-half ago I came to a rather Zen acceptance of Lamar Odom for who he is as a player — both brilliant and mercurial. They are part of the same package, the yin and the yang. As a whole, he paints a fantastic picture, but if you live and die with him day to day as a fan, the frustration will overwhelm you.

I am reaching the same place with this Lakers team as a whole. Beginning to accept that their Achilles’ heel is focus and motivation, that it will come and go, and that will not change. During the regular season, two quarters of the good Lakers may often be enough, and during the playoffs it will not be.

But I’m pretty much done talking about lessons learned, thinking this team has finally turned a mental corner, because I don’t think it has and I don’t think it will. I have no idea what to expect in game six. I know what to expect from the Rockets — they are a scrappy team that will come out and play hard, like their season is on the line. With the Lakers, I don’t have a clue. It could be four quarters like Tuesday, although probably not. And I’m not at all convinced that the “lessons” of this series will carry over to games against Denver or Cleveland. The Lakers could actually show up focused for all the games in the Finals, but that would be to me more a matter of circumstance than growth.

These Lakers just are what they are. And I can accept that.

—————————————————————————

As for the game itself, realize that the 25-6 run the Lakers had to end the first quarter consisted mostly of made jumpers — they hit 6 of 7 in the stretch. In that same time they had one layup and two dunks. And Kobe was back to destroying Battier on the night, shooting 8 of 13 against him (and 2 of 6 against anyone else.

Aside that, I thought Zephid had a great wrap so I’ll just steal that one.

I think this 40 pt win is a little misleading. Yes, LA was the better team tonight, but the fact is that Houston simply missed a ton of shots. 29-89 from the field, 5-29 from three? Some of that was improved Laker defense, but most of it was simply shots not going in. That being said, if Houston had made about average percent of their shots, this still would’ve been a 20 pt win. Now for some likes and dislikes:

Likes?1.) Kobe Bryant, 10-19 from the field. When Kobe starts driving, like he did tonight, we’re almost unstoppable. He forced up maybe 2-3 bad shots, but mostly we stuck to the game-plan, ran the offense through Gasol, then switched to the Kobe-Gasol PNR so Houston couldn’t get too comfortable. Like Doug Collins said, when he scores 1.4-1.8 points per shot attempt, we’re unbeatable.

2.) Houston Rockets with 17 turnovers. Admittedly, some of this was Houston simply passing the ball to the Lakers. However, as we’ve all seen, when the Lakers get turnovers, both our offense and defense really get going. Everyone gets hyped up from seeing Trevor or Sasha dunk, which gives us more effort on the defensive end, which forces more bad shots and opportunities to push the pace. Turnovers really fuel our team, so the more we get, the better we play.

3.) Ron Artest, dribbling. I started becoming almost school-girly giddy whenever Ron Artest started dribbling the ball outside the 3-point line or in the corner. Of course some of this was Ron Artest being Ron Artest, forcing up shots, but the Lakers did a great job trapping him and forcing him to pass, something he’s really, really bad at, evidenced by his 1:4 assist to turnover ratio last night. I seriously think that with each dribble, Ron Artest lowers his team’s chances of scoring by like 5%.\

4.) Derek Fisher, 18 minutes, Jordan Farmar, 22 minutes, Shannon Brown, 17 minutes. I really liked this distribution of PG minutes. Yes, Fisher got beat a couple times by Brooks, but I don’t think we should under-estimate the couple times that Fisher posted Brooks up. Like was said, Fisher posting up Brooks is like delivering body blows to a boxer; it takes his air. I doubt Brooks was used to taking a beating like he did in the post against Fisher, so I have a strong feeling that it affected his game, 4-11, 0-3 from three as evidence. Farmar and Brown also came in and played great, almost mistake-free basketball. Can’t really ask for more from our PG’s.

Dislikes?1.) Officials: Ken Mauer, Bennett Salvatore, Derrick Stafford. I don’t think we could’ve gotten a more home-team favorable officiating crew than the one we got tonight. The Hayes fouls were all fairly ticky-tack, while a lot of Laker contact went uncalled, especially Andrew Bynum man-handling dudes underneath the basket. Not saying that the Lakers didn’t earn the foul calls on the Rockets, it’s just that the favorable officiating helped.

2.) Derek Fisher, 1-6, Sasha Vujacic, 1-5. ?Our top two shooters, going 2-11 from the floor, including 0-3 from three is a bad sign. Sasha’s big brick in the 3rd quarter had him really upset, as you could see Kobe “consoling” him on the bench. That being said, we need these two to step up and start making shots. I don’t feel confident with the game on the line having to kick out to Odom, Ariza, Walton, Brown, or Farmar for the win/game-tying basket. We can only hope they can back on track soon.

3.) Von Wafer, dribbling. For those of us who actually watched the last 6 minutes of the 4th quarter, it was disturbing how easily Wafer was getting in to the lane. He was lightning quick out on the perimeter, repeatedly beating our guards off the dribble and getting easy scores. Some of this was lax Laker defense, but I for one would love to see Wafer taking contested outside shots over driving on Sasha any day. Sasha has done a great job on Wafer all series long, so I’m a little disturbed by Wafer getting to the basket at will in the 4th.
Overall, it was a great win for the Lake Show. Good to see them close out a game strong, finally. Let’s hope this win doesn’t go to their heads and they come out strong in Houston.

Kurt

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123 responses to Game 5 and Acceptance

  1. That’s a great post. We really do have to accept this team as who they are. It’s about time we gave up the “they’ve finally come around!” or “now there’s no beating us, the series is over!” This is a day-to-day team.

    Awesome vid for anyone who missed it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jwSjgEWp78

    Who says Kobe doesn’t have a sense of humor?

  2. @Snoop that’s hilarious. Was that a voiceover of the same soundbyte or did Kobe actually say that?

  3. I have a couple points from the game:

    1) Shannon Brown is a good basketball player. Lakers have some tough decisions to make on the PG situation…

    2) Ron Artest is one of the most selfish basketball players in the league. Some of his shots were breathtakenly bad.

    3) Pau Gasol MUST be the focal point of our offense. No team has any player that can both guard his post up and face up game.

    4) Lamar is who he is, but he’s definitely a warrior that always plays hard, even when hurt.

  4. In response to Zephid’s “Dislike #2″ –

    Fish is a streaky shooter (and always has been). There is definitely a chance that he stumbles into a hot streak and starts canning jumpers, because he is in the midst of one of the longest cold streaks I can remember.

    Sasha is who he is, unfortunately. Last year was clearly fool’s gold. If Sasha can’t knock down wide open three pointers when the team is up by 40 (i.e. no pressure), then he’s not going to knock down shots.

  5. @ Don – I was trying to figure out the same thing myself. I’m leaning towards voiceover.

    @ PeanutButter (from last thread): lol you’re right, all the Lakers around him either didn’t notice or were highly uncomfortable and pretended they didn’t notice.

    On the D12 issue, I can see the argument both ways, but Kelly Dwyer articulated the problem with his comment well: “I don’t think the Orlando Magic are losing because Dwight Howard(notes) isn’t getting enough touches…Dwight Howard has no moves. He’s a dominant force, and well deserving of that Defensive Player of the Year, but his moves are crap. But he has no moves. Lefty runners are nice, but the guy has no turnaround jumper, he has no righty jump (or rolling) hook he can continually go to, and his drop step is lousy.” When you add in that he’s an awful FT shooter, I’m not sure he has a legitimate gripe. Shaq was unstoppable offensively in the paint, so he had a right to ask for the ball.

  6. Burgundy: I’m afraid you’re right. It really does look like last year was an aberration – this is the real Sasha, the same player he’s been for most of his career. I’ve been the strongest advocate of more PT, but if he can’t hit the wide open shots that he got last night, I don’t see a ton of hope for this season. Shooters can get hot quickly, but it looks like even Phil gave up on him, pulling him and putting in Brown at the 2 when there was no real reason for it match-up wise.

  7. Apparently Phil Jackson sings after wins:

    http://twitter.com/JeanieBuss/status/1727663364

  8. #6, Burgundy,

    Up by 40 doesn’t necessarily mean no pressure, it means a different kind of pressure and you just articulated it. If you can’t make wide open shots when there’s no pressure, what kind of shooter are you? That in and of itself is a form of mental and emotional pressure. Hopefully Sasha doesn’t get stuck in the “what’s wrong with? Why can’t I make shots anymore?” downward spiral of thinking… because that’s a very destructive one.

    I admit that I might be grasping here, but I don’t think that Sasha could have made the kinds of shots he did last year on a season long lucky streak. Luck doesn’t work that way and the law of averages catches up. He can make shots, he just isn’t right now. The sooner he figures out why so he can fix it, the better, but I’m still convinced that he is a better shooter than these past month has shown.

  9. I believe Phil recently has said that he’s not worried about Sasha’s shot, because he’s “neurotic” about it in practice. Sasha is putting in the work to become a great shooter, it’s just not manifesting itself in games quite yet. If Phil’s not worried, I’m not.

  10. How is Kobe Bryant NOT on our “top 2 shooters” list?

  11. kurt’s assessment of these lakers has to be one of the best I’ve read. and I have to believe that’s pretty much how pj sees this team, but he’d never admit that in public. I don’t know if this team is too young for pj, or pj is just old, but I think every year it’s harder for him to crack the skulls of a farmar, a sasha, or bynum…he’s a great coach, with great staff, but it seems like each year the me-first mentality of some players wears him down a little more.

  12. I think accepting the team as who they are is fine, but it’s more fitting to accept them as a reflection of their coach. PJ is money, but I thought his comments during game 4 were telling. During his TV interview (which I hate), he basically said that the emotion of the Rockets was what was driving their 1st quarter run and that they can’t keep it up the whole game – they did.

    I wish PJ would be more proactive and say something like “F this, we’re not going to wait for their intensity to go down, we’re going to match it!” This leads me to believe that he knows the lakers really need 3 quarters to beat most teams, but in the playoffs emotion can carry you 4 quarters.

  13. 5,
    I don’t think we have that tough a choice re: our PG spot. I think Farmar as a tiny quick PG is better served coming off the bench as a change of pace guy who can be a spark plug igniting the offense with his pick and roll ability. Brown is a bigger and better defender who is more steady and would be better starting.

  14. @12
    Kobe’s pretty much on the top 2 of all lists sans rebounder and things of that nature.

    But I think Fish and Sascha were referenced as our top 2 pure shooters/spot up shooters – aka the people that Kobe dishes to after driving.

  15. j.d. Hastings May 13, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I think the opening of this post says it all. Except I’m having some troubles with the acceptance part. Individually I like every player on this roster, but somehow as a group these bad habits just keep coming out. And I don’t get it. They’re led by one of the most fanatically driven players ever. I can live with one player being inconsistent from game to game- what i don’t get is how these modd swings permeate the entire squad, whether between games or in the middle of a quarter.

    I suppose I can live with it, because no matter what they’re putting a lot more effort into things than I am, but historically, teams with these habits don’t win titles. You don’t have the leeway to give away a game or two to Denver or Cleveland. Ask Detroit.

    But as I said, individually I like everybody on this team and will continue to root for them. And it’s undoubtedly positive that when they have to show up in a must win situation, boy do they.

    But at the same time I think the Rockets deserve better. But for Artest occasionally, they are everything you could ask for in a team to root for. They persevere, play hard nosed and don’t give up (except maybe a few moments last night). They deserve a lot better than they’ve gotten from fate the last few years and they deserve the respect of this Laker team. I just have no clue as to whether they’ll actually receive it in Houston for game 6. In which case look forward to game 7…

  16. Good post.

    I agree in part about the Finals, if they are in them. There is about a 90% chance the opponent will be Cleveland, and the Lakers will be underdogs as the media prepare for LeBron’s coronation. There is about a 9% chance the opponent will be Boston–on a miracle run having shocked Cleveland. The Lakers will be focused against either–until they win a game. If the opponent is somehow Orlando, they will not be focused until they lose a game.

    I wanted to echo the poster in the other thread who agreed with Doug Collins’ statement that the Lakers O feeds their effort on D in many respects. I would like to see more effort on D when the O is disrupted. Instead, it seems to be the opposite, resulting in Game 4 in Hou or Game 6 last June in Bos.

  17. I kno this might sound like it’s too soon.. But how do u feel luke/ariza will do against Carmelo? I saw ron backing down trevor and it looked very effective, melo isn’t as strong as artest but he still has a considerable strength advantage over ariza. Wud luke be a better defender to throw at melo?? Last year him n radmanovic did a great job

  18. You nailed it. Odom and the Lakers are a mercurial bunch so you have to savor it when they are on, and not get sucker punched when they let you down.

    Last night was a complete 48, the first in two series. With a 40 point lead, second unit in the fourth they were still running, rotating, passing and pressuring.

    That they couldn’t find it within themselves to step on the gas pedal for a full game before this tempers the love a bit, for purists like myself, who buy into constructs like wanting it more, defense winning championships, playing with passion and playing with discipline (in our case working through the low post, gasol).

    Alas, we have a zen master for a coach,so the best that we can do is find some crazy wisdom in the paradox that is the Lakers: brilliant, magical, disappointing, confusing.

    Hopefully, that paradox will have “champions” apended to it. ANYTHING is possible with this team.

    Cheers,

    Mark

  19. I actually think it’s not a tough choice either. We haven’t seen enough of Brown over the long period to really know. He was nothing before the Lakers. And Farmar, yes, inconsistent, but has gotten jerked rather quickly after mistakes. Rondo got the same kind of results at first, but playing time has made a remarkable difference. The Houston series has definitely made a difference for him. Like Brown in place of Sasha. The Farmar/Brown together has been much more productive.

  20. I have trouble “accepting” that the Lakers will remain Jekyll & Hyde—this suggests that they, or certain players, do not have full control over when to flip the switch, that there’s a certain randomness to their highs and lows. I don’t think its random and I do think the switch can be thrown at will (just not in the middle of a game).

    1) This team has played 92 games with no other goal than to redeem themselves in the finals. Granted, busting through the regular season and early playoff rounds are necessary parts of that, but this team is singularly Finals-focused. Case in point: when have the Lakers come out flat against an opponent they sized up as a potential Final’s foe (i.e., Cleveland and Boston)? They are consistently focused and driven in these games. You also see this from other teams with Finals-only mentalities (i.e. Boston and San Antonio—see also their respective championship playoff runs and deliberate nights off during the reg season). The Lakers are a big game, finals-focused team that understand how long a season can be when it stretches until June. Excuse Kobe, Phil, & Co. for not putting their hand through a wall when they take a night off against the Charlotte Bobcats or an undermanned Houston team (even in the playoffs)…

    2) If this is true, it’s un-“accept”-able and deep personnel changes are needed this off-season (even if we win it all). I don’t think anyone thinks that’s necessary, although it wouldn’t hurt to add a couple mentally-tough energy players or hungry veterans to the second unit squad.

  21. Can anyone here help me with some analysis of the SSZ and, specifically, how it has worked or failed in this series?

    In game 4, it seemed like the Rox were reversing to Battier at will for wide open 3-point looks. Last night, Battier appeared again to be wide open a bunch of the time on the weakside, but he never got the ball. I know some of this was just poor recognition by the Rockets, but was there anything the lakers were doing to inhibit Houston’s ability to switch it to him? One thing they were NOT doing was having Kobe disrupt the passing lane to Battier as Kobe was, as always, floating around the lane (although, to his credit, I do think he helped a couple of times on Scola).

    Was this just a matter of Hou forgetting the game plan, or were the rotations different or better that perhaps stopped the (hockey) pass that would lead to the pass to Battier?

    I did see how it helped with Brooks, however– looked like there were four lakers waiting for him when he turned the corner.

  22. “although it wouldn’t hurt to add a couple mentally-tough energy players or hungry veterans to the second unit squad.”

    I think this is why Phil likes Josh Powell and Shannon Brown.

  23. I have to agree with you Kurt. At this point it makes no sense to continue waiting for this team to suddenly starting playing with consistent focus, effort, energy, and discipline no matter the circumstances. They haven’t done it to this point for whatever reason, and if the second round of the playoffs doesn’t bring it out of them, nothing will.

    Whether they can win a title with that kind of personality is open to debate, but that question will soon be answered one way or another.

  24. j.d. and Sparky,
    I think you’re on to something… Kobe for example never plays 100% against an opponent that has no chance of beating him anyway. He will only fight to the point of murder against the very best… and I think the rest of the team follows suit. (I know someone said this in the previous thread… apologies for stealing your idea, I can’t remember your name.) That’s how they could become the only team to beat Cleveland in Cleveland this year… they played hard because they knew everyone thought the Cavs where the best.

    Against the Raptors everyone already knows the Lakers are superior… and we are not so insecure that we need to prove that superiority by crushing the weak and helpless, now are we? ;)

  25. sasha’s problem this year has been shooting off the dribble, which he is doing alot of.

    his catch and shoot is still pretty solid.

  26. RE: The defense of Sasha posts

    The fact that he works obsessively on his shot, quite frankly, is part of the problem.

    What has been shown this year is the guy is a bit of a head case.

    It doesn’t matter if he shoots 1000 jumpers a day, if he gets in the game, and something doesn’t go the way he wants/expects – it gets in his head, and he can’t focus.

    He misses a few shots, and suddenly, he’s rushing them – as others have noted – so his form is off.

    He hasn’t had a “bad month,” he’s been bad this whole season. The guy can’t hit a shot with any consistency because he’s so far in his own head, and that he can’t focus and let his hours of practice do the work.

    Short of a hypnosis or an exorcism, what you see is what you get with Sasha.

  27. It’s too hard to find any dislikes about the game last night.

    As far as “favorable” officiating goes, part of that was Pau forcing the issue. Too often he gives up on positioning or making a move against shorter, strong defenders like Hayes. Give Pau (and Andrew) credit for making the refs have to make calls. Hayes basically pushes Pau (it’s all he can do). Will they call it in Houston, and will Pau give up is the real question?

    One thing I found impressive was he fact that everyone *knew* the Lakers would come out with a better effort, and a lot of people *expected* some form of a convincing win, and *ALL* Lakers fans wanted a blowout, and not only did the Lakers answer the call, but the fans stayed the whole game to see it. We finally saw them completely impose their will. Yes, the Rockets were bad, but they also knew what was coming and could do nothing to stop it.

    If Ron Artest can disrupt Houston’s offense like that again, it could get ugly again. it’s also true they missed a lot of shots, but what is the norm? Game 4, or Game 5. I say somewhere in between. I like our chances.

    A agree with Kurt. I’m tired trying to figure out which Lakers will come out. Every time I think they’re woken up for good, I end up very wrong.

  28. I love and hate this Laker squad – but love them more than hate them.

    With regard to Sasha, I agree with Burgundy. It’s all mental. I think Kobe/Fish others need to harp hard on him when he takes dumb 3 pointers (for example, when he is the lone Laker on a fast break facing 3 Rocket defenders) – particularly when the game is close or the Lakers are down by less than 10 points. There’s a time and place for the 3 point shot in this offense, and its not on a fast break. He also needs to SLOW DOWN. He had some very bad passes on 2 on 2 fast breaks yesterday that are inexcusable for a guard in a championship team. I mean, Sasha has to know that he is not the greatest of the passers so why does he continue to go for high risk passes instead of slowing down and waiting for the offense set up?

    I don’t know guys. A season-long slump is not a slump, it’s a consistent decline in performance. Putting the playoff’s aside for a moment, if he continues to struggle next year, then I can see the team demoting him to a permanent spot on the bench.

  29. Sasha needs to attend Floppers Anonymous. I heard they have Dr. Divac lecturing there.

    It’s the guys like Sasha that make routing for them so much fun. If they only did this… if they only did that… Anything we get out of him is gravy although we always hope for prime rib.

  30. Kurt, you forgot another like:

    The profound joy of being able to yell ‘Now it’s your turn– all day, baby!’ at whoever had the good fortune to be ‘guarded’ by Brian Cook.

  31. It doesn’t matter if he shoots 1000 jumpers a day, if he gets in the game, and something doesn’t go the way he wants/expects – it gets in his head, and he can’t focus.

    He misses a few shots, and suddenly, he’s rushing them – as others have noted – so his form is off. –Burgundy

    Exactly! I’m just not convinced that it is unfixable. Not yet…

  32. Moreover, just because his shot isn’t falling doesn’t mean he’s completely worthless to us. Much like last year when he neutralized Korver defensively, he’s taken Wafer out of every single game to the point where he was so frustrated he was thrown out by his own coach. This is no small feat – Wafer can be an explosive scorer (just ask Portland).

    He handles the ball, gets steals and rebounds, scraps for loose balls, is probably the best FT shooter on the team, and can run the pick and pop very well as the primary ballhandler. He isn’t some one trick pony to be written off because his shot is off.

  33. 10, Mimsy, unfortunately, it is actually very possible that Sasha was simply shooting above his average for the entirety of last season.

    Assuming he takes around 400 shots a season, with a mean shooting percentage of 40%, he’ll make on average 160 shots per season. However, it’s very easy to see him making 190 one season, and 130 the next. Making 190 shots in a season over a mean of 160 means he makes 1 extra basket every 2-3 games over the course of the whole season. Making only 130 shots with a mean of 160 adds up to about 1 extra miss every 2-3 games.

    130/400 is 32.5%, which is horrible for a jump shooter. But is one extra miss every 2-3 games really that noticeable? I say no. Unfortunately, this is the way statistics works, since the only way we can predict Sasha’s mean shooting percentage is to assume some sort of discrete probability density function over make or miss and let iterate itself off into infinity. Sadly, 400 or 1200 or even 10,000 shots is nowhere close to infinity, so gauging Vujacic’s mean shooting percentage is like trying to count the number of people in the world by extrapolating from the density of people in Times Square at any given moment. There may be a ton of people in Times Square, but nowhere close to 6-7 billion.

    Somehow, this is difficult to swallow, especially for gamblers like myself who love to see patterns where they don’t exist. Yet, it’s completely possible that Sasha was simply shooting above his mean the entirety of last season. However, on the flip side, it is also completely possible that this year is an aberration and he’s simply shooting below his “true” average.

    12, Mamula, I can’t remember the last time Kobe received a pass that was kicked out to him on someone else’s penetration. That being said, Kobe is still only a 35% three point shooter, making him a full 4% less than Fisher’s average, and even 1% lower than Vujacic’s horrendous average.

  34. I do think Sasha’s shooting percentage last year was a fluke, similar to when Luke shot 40 percent from 3 one year. I think Sasha can still be a limited but effective high energy defensive role player but he needs to stop taking contested 3’s and pull up jumpers.
    I’m sure Phil is still playing him in the faint hope that he’ll find his shot in the playoffs, like Ray Allen did last year but needless to say Ray Allen had a much bigger sample size then Sasha does when it comes to consistently hitting 3’s.

  35. Sasha’s shooting may be terribly off, but at least he’s working hard on defense. In case people forgot Wafer lit us up in a regular season game, Sasha has definitely gotten in his head and has played some solid, feisty, obnoxious if he’s not our guy defense.

  36. On the Sasha discussion,
    I haven’t commented much here, but offline I’ve said much about him. Before with anger, but now with stoic observation. Sasha just isn’t a good player. He can’t make shots, he’s a poor individual defender. There always seems to be a lot of fake activity around him.

    This started during last year’s playoffs, so it can’t be about confidence. He gets a surprising amount of shots in our offense, so it’s not about touches. He does a great job of irritating perimeter defenders, but he’s not actually effective at guarding people. He repeatedly allows people to blow right past him or get the shot they want. A lot of the time his irritation game backfires on him and he gets frustrated. The only time he has any success is if the player is weak minded (see Von Wafer)

    He may have a good game or 2 this year, but I don’t see it signaling a long term change. Any other coach would’ve probably benched him 3 months ago. We all know PJ is a different animal and this may or may not work out, in this case.

    Finally, I’m not bashing the guy, I had very high hopes for him before the season. I just can’t deny what I’ve been seeing since last year. If he strings 2 or 3 good games together, I’ll be the happiest fan out there.

  37. Zephid, I know that it’s more likely that you are right than that I am. Part of why I stubbornly hold out hope on Sasha is that his team mates and coach seem to still believe he can do better, but they’re probably not immune to wishful thinking either.

    Overall, I think Sasha frustrates me a lot more than Lamar ever did. Lamar’s spats of “um, whops, was I supposed to play today too?” are at least somewhat shorter than an entire season… and when he returns from a slump like that he usually returns with a vengeance.

  38. I keep hoping we’ll see last season’s Machine again this year. For some reason, I have patience that he’ll come back strong. Results don’t support that patience, but I’m hanging with supporting the guy still.

    Was glad to see Bynum playing an active game last night. I liked how Phil often had him showing out on the perimeter a couple of times when Brooks thought about turning the corner. That won’t work often, but as a change of pace it seemed to slow Brooks’ shooting a bit and made Bynum have to think about more than banging down low.

    As for lil pau’s comments on Cook – classic. I can’t believe I once had visions of him developing into a poor man’s Robert Horry. His extension was one of Mitch’s biggest blunders. Thankfully he was able to dump him, and get a good player in return.

  39. This is not Lakers related, but it is driving me crazy right now.

    I have heard way too many commentators side with Dwight Howard about getting touches. The guy has no post game, just otherwordly athleticism, and with Perkins pushing him away from the basket, he’s basically a non-threat except for putbacks and lobs (anyone seen his running hook shot?). Since when did Dwight Howard become a dominant offensive player?

  40. j.d. Hastings May 13, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    My analogy for following this team: They are like a fantastic restaurant down the street from your house that features one of the best chefs and always have quality food. There is a great chance that you’ll have some of the best food of your life whenever you go.

    However, about 10% of the time when you go there, instead of getting that great meal, they’ve attached electrodes to the fork that electrocute your tongue. Even if it’s not completely their fault, that 10% of the time is going to cause you to tone back the amount of enthusiasm you’re willing to invest in the place….

  41. I had to speak on the Sasha deal first, but killer post.

    I completely and absolutely agree. No wake up calls, no turning points. This is who they are. And this could so easily be a 7 game series. Even if we beat Houston, I couldn’t possibly look past Denver to the Finals now. That team really believes they can win a championship.

    Sparky, there’s no light switch, accept it. I thought just like you that this type of play from a contender was unacceptable as well. I finally realized that they don’t care what the fans, media, whatever thinks. This is who they are, they’ve proven it all season. At this point, the only sane thing to do is accept it.

  42. 41

    Completely agree. Have any of these ‘experts’ ever watched Howard try to post up against a strong post defender? It’s not a pretty sight. He’s getting a large chunk of his points from dump-offs and offensive rebounds. Perkins has had no trouble containing him one-on-one.

  43. 42

    That is by far the weirdest analogy I have ever seen.

  44. Luke’s shooting was due to the “new” ball they tried to use, Sasha’s shooting may have been a combination of a contract year and better luck. I think Sasha can shoot better, but at this point there is no reason to actually think this is possible, at least this season.

  45. j.d. Hastings May 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    45- It’s the analogy equivalent of this:
    http://tinyurl.com/rbrkbg

  46. I think Bill Simmons made a very good point on shooting, specifically 3 point shooting. Kobe shoots 33 percent but he takes a lot of end of shot clock 3’s and contested 3’s, Sasha was getting the shots Ariza is getting this year which is basically wide open 3’s. Teams adjusted and now Sasha doesn’t get quite the looks he got last year and his shooting percentages have dropped accordingly (although I acknowledge a confidence factor, as now he misses wide open 3’s also).

    My point is shooting percentages can be deceiving, especially for role players. Sasha wasn’t as good of a three point shooter as it looked last year, because teams didn’t guard him, nor is Ariza as good as he’s shooting this year, because teams aren’t guarding him either, and Kobe is a much better 3 point shooter then it looks, because he rarely gets wide open threes.

  47. I think it would be great for the Lakers to have someone like Shane Battier on the team for several reasons:
    -He’s a very good defender
    -He brings a defensive (first) mentality to the team
    -He’s smart and would understand the Triangle Offense
    -He can hit open threes (consistently)
    -He has experience and could mentor our young players (Ariza, Brown, Farmar,…)

  48. Archon,
    Outstanding comment on why all these stats guys have their heads in a very dark place.

    Statistics are useful to spot anomalies, but once observed you must use personal observation and background knowledge to come to a conclusion.

    Making decisions strictly on stats can loose people a lot of money in the world of finance – the same is true in the game of basketball.

  49. j.d. Hastings May 13, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Ugh, I meant to link to Rod Benson’s “Name Game” post, not the generic bdl front page.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Too-much-Rod-Benson-The-Name-Game-;_ylt=Alf_HM0yZ6KRGllu6myohAbZrYZ4?urn=nba,163222

  50. Sasha is the league’s best at annoying his opponent to the point that his opponent takes a poke at him. This happens 3 -4 times a game and at least one of those occasions results in an offensive foul.

    To be the best in the league at something is no small thing.

    Speaking of all-league performances, Pau Gasol wins his first all-league place. Although I would have him second team infront of Duncan, I can understand the voters’ decision.

  51. Chris J,
    “His extension was one of Mitch’s biggest blunders.”

    Observing Mitch’s moves over the years, I have come to the belief that he gives extensions to some players with the plan of trading the contract in the future. Considering that the Lakers have been for quite a while, and will be for quite a while, over the salary cap, their options for getting free agents are pretty limited. And consistently getting draft picks towards the end of the first round, they are less likely to get impact players through the draft. That leaves trades. Having contracts to trade, without actually hurting your team by losing a good player, is a perfect way to improve your roster. I believe that logic was behind the Kwame Brown and Brian Cook extensions.

  52. Excellent point, Archon, statistics are never everything. I’m confused though. Are you saying that we’re all equally right about Sasha, or that we’re all equally wrong…?

    Good point Bill as well, and that might well be one of the main reasons I like him. And if he wasn’t on the Lakers I would probably hate him for it.

  53. With regard to Sasha, let’s not denigrate his defense entirely. It’s not just weak-minded players that he’s effective on, it’s anyone with a shaky handle. Sasha likes to get up in your grill and pester you with his flailing, and if you don’t have great handles and can’t body him out of the way, then he’s effective. He’s doubly effective against Wafer, because Wafer is weak-minded *and* has a shaky handle. Sasha’s block of Wafer’s jumper from behind and subsequent fast break dunk might have been my favorite sequence last night.

    And although I said this in last night’s thread, it’s worth saying again. It warmed my heart to see Brian Cook playing significant minutes for the Rockets while Trevor Ariza was playing significant minutes for us. Thanks Mitch. :)

  54. To Everyone,
    Bill Simmons is very smart… but if you needed him to tell you that about players shooting percentages… then you probably also think Derek Fisher is a good NBA starting PG. Man I love picking on Fish. I almost feel bad. But then again, he makes me watch him make below average PG’s look like all stars every night so I don’t feel too badly.

  55. Coffee is For Closers May 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I haven’t been on the site for a few days, so excuse me if someone else has already made this point, but it seems to me like the finger is too often pointed at the players for this team’s up and down performances. Doesn’t the coaching staff have to bear some responsibility for the game 4 debacle and spotty play in general? I mean, from watching game 5, and the way they were able to exploit houston’s lack of size – where was that the previous game? It wasn’t like they didn’t know Yao was out for game 4. Now, I’ll give you that Brooks, Battier and Ron-ron, etc. shot unbelievably that game, but laker offense was gawd awful in that first half – seemed like they were totally unprepared for how Houston defended them. Props for fixing it in game 5, but still feel like got caught with their pants down in game 4.

  56. Im alway surprised. Most laker fans have a very short memory. The last 5 or 6 Phil Jackson coach Laker teams were all mercurial. I believe that our lakers are this way because they are chonically under-coached. Phil’s ongoing habits of no timely time-outs, no real-time defensive adjustments and no variations from his pregame substituion plan (unless foul trouble intervenes) produce a free flowing contest that is similar to what you see at a pick-up game at the YMCA.

    I also think that our defense principles need serious reworking. Do we really need to double team all Rockets in the post (even when they are already guarded by 7-footers)? Is it really a good idea to bring Pao or Andrew out to the 3-point area to attempt to trap brooks?

    Anyway, I was just venting. I figure that this year we may be good enough to win it all despite all of the aforementioned shortcommings.

  57. I’ve been thinking about how the lakers have had this on-off-focus/we-can-turn-it-on-like-a-switch mentality. And what strikes me the most is that they’ve had this problem for YEARS, regardless of who filled out the roster. Which begs the question: is there something, or someone, in the organization that induces this demeanor? How can this approach be consistent through the years if there are roster changes? Don’t new players bring new attitudes? Do the Lakers unknowingly choose players with intermittent focus? I remember the three-peat roster had these issues. Is it Kobe? Phil? Mitch? The Buss family? Gary Vitti? Can’t the Lakers get this problem past them? Why does it last through all these different players, through all these years? Does this happen to all pro teams? Am I not seeing it because I’m not paying enough attention to the rest of the NBA field?

    Maybe it happens to all athletes. I’m a graphic designer and know too well that i can’t hit it out of the park every day. Maybe it’s just the human condition to be inconsistent, to have bad days. But, if I was performing inconsistently, or bringing a bad attitude – even intermittently – for YEARS, I would have to step back and make some major changes if i wanted to continue. Especially if i could stand to make millions. I’d like to think that someone might try to figure this out, might see the same pattern I’ve seen since i became a fan in the mid 90s (a tough time for a laker fan.)

    thanx for the blog, i read it daily.

  58. It’s easy to scout and defend role players, because usually they are only good at one or two things. Sasha wasn’t really scouted or defended last year because he had shot so poorly in previous years, and there were so many other things you have to worry about against the Lakers. So this year teams added “chase Sasha off 3 point line” to the scouting report. Now if Sasha could respond to that by hitting 20 footers after a defender flies by him then he’d be on to something. But he hasn’t done that yet, and his game has regressed because he couldn’t respond to the extra attention. Sasha MUST spend all summer working on that shot if he wants to be an effective NBA player.

  59. 59. That’s an interesting point. I also believe has lost a bit of his touch.

    I didnt think I would ever say this, but when I see Boston games, I feel like that’s well-coached squad. The intensity is there for each game. They run great plays out of almost every time-out. They sort of remind me of the Spurs squads of the past.

    I am not able to pin-point it, but I do not get those ‘Aha’ moments from the Lakers where I feel like Phil has made a great coaching adjustment. In fact, I get the feeling that any adjusments he makes are what I would have thought of myself. And usually he makes these changes much later. For example, after game 1, every laker fan was calling for lesser minutes for Fish because he was not able to remain in front of Brooks. It took Phil all the way upto game 5 to make that adjustment. And I still think he is playing Fish more than he should be playing this series.

    There are several other occasions which come to mind, but in regards to brevity, I will leave it at that.

    My point was not to bash Phil. He is still one of the best coaches of all time, but my feeling is that we do not really have a coaching advantage over other teams, as we had during the threepeat years. I won’t claim to know the reason for this drop-off. Maybe he is not as motivated. Or maybe he is getting old and not able to put in as much preparation as he did earlier.

  60. Lamar Odom personifying the Lakers. Ouch, ouch, and ouch again.

    Objective observation allows me to ‘see’ that, but truly, to ask fans to accept that is to ask parents to accept that your child prodigy will simply work only when he pleases. Easier said than done.

    I do agree that the team follows Kobe’s suit. But you seriously can’t fault Kobe for trying to be ‘wise’ and ‘conserving’ his legs. That’s what he has seen everyone do (from Shaq to Horry) and what he must feel like he has to do now that he has 12 long years of basketball mileage on him. Too bad that that’s not really the best example for our team, who are all younger (save Fisher) than Kobe.

    I also agree that it’s part Phil’s ‘fault.’ I think that’s just how coaches get through veterans and how they get accepted by veterans. Thus I think there’s quite a rift between everyone in such teams: vets get to take it easy, rooks must bust their behinds and this double standards cause discontent when you’re a rook with a strong sense of self worth (case in point: Kobe vs. Shaq vs. Phil; now something that is probably brewing in Andrew/Farmar).

    Anyway, regardless of whether we accept this or not, as fans we all want our team to win the entire thing. And even if we do realize our team’s shortcomings and our nature, by expecting a championship, there are demands we place on our team even if it’s beyond them.

    Like telling them that we’ll only go as far as our defense.

  61. Oh, and as for Sasha:

    I think wide open threes are like penalties in soccer.

    There’s just a lot of pressure when you take them because you are expected to make them.

  62. Peter I think you are are right! I attribute most of this to phils coaching style (see my post above yours). In addition to what I already pointed out. How he substitutes is a big factor in losing lead. There are advantages to using a deep player rotation (more players get to play and feel like they are a part of the group, more players develop there skills, and your starters dont get worn-out) and there are disadvantages (the rythm of the game get broken frequently, player dont play long enough to get in a rythm). This style may be better suited for the regular season. Since we’re in the playoffs now phil needs to shorten his rotations and we will lose fewer leads.

  63. Coffee is For Closers May 13, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    60. man, I was thinking the same thing last night, especially when andrew was out there trying to trap brooks – recipe for a 5 on 3 if you ask me.

  64. Phil is a “teaching a man to fish” coach in that he wants the players to learn and think for themselves what to do. He gets them to bond and grow. He has never been a great Xs and Os coach, he counts on his staff for that more, but like any CEO he sets the tone.

    That said, I think the up and down is on the players more than the coach. You think he didn’t try to warn them about game 4? They were not fully prepared for what the Rockets would run, but the team laid an egg as much a anyone. Do you think Phil calls Fisher over during free throws and says “Be sure not to start the offense through Pau, go for the long two early in the clock.”

    I love people coming here and saying Phil’s coaching style is better suited for the regular season compared to the playoffs, or that he somehow can’t provide the “aha” moments that Doc Rivers can. The Doc Rivers who couldn’t do crap until Danny Ainge brought in vets to lead the team.

    Remember where this team was when Phil returned after a year off. He came in and helped build this team up, taught it to play a style and to be good again. It’s not an accident. And to suggest that he doesn’t have a style for the playoffs, I think his results prove the point.

  65. And by the way, Brooks runs off the high pick and roll set by a big, that is why Bynum is out there, obviously. If he or Gasol lay back of that 1) Brooks turns the corner and has a full head of steam going into the lane, so even if Bynum is in the paint at that point he is more likely to pick up a foul than alter the shot; 2) Scola/Landry/Whoever can just drain the 18 foot pick and pop. The other big is out there for a reason, unless you want to play a pure zone.

  66. exhelodrvr –

    That’s an interesting theory. It makes some sense, especially considering Cook’s extension came just a few months after the Lakers had signed Radmanovic to a five-year, $30 million deal.

    Cook and Radmanovic basically fulfilled the same role on the court, which supports your idea that Cook was extended for non-basketball reasons.

    That said, unless the Magic front office is brain dead I don’t see how the Cook-Ariza deal would have been driven by any perceived value associated with Cook’s contract. He was far from a salary cap savior.

    At the time L.A. traded him, Cook was just a few weeks into the first season of a $10.5 million, three-year extension he’d signed with the Lakers in November 2006. That deal wasn’t due to expire until summer 2010 (though 2009-10 was a player option). Given that, the Magic had no monetary incentive for taking on his expiring contract in order to improve its cap space, as was the case with Memphis when it accepted Kwame Brown and his expiring contract in the Pau Gasol deal.

    If Orlando was simply looking to clear cap room, it would have been better of holding on to Ariza since over the two concurrent years of their existing contracts Ariza was $1 million less expensive than Cook, and Ariza was due to become a free agent a full year earlier. (Ariza’s deal was worth $2.7 million last season, plus a player option for this season worth $2.9 million, according to the L.A. Times. Cook’s average salary is $3.5 million.)

    The Magic paid more money, and agreed to a lengthier commitment, when it took on Cook – and that doesn’t even include the added costs that came with taking on Mo Evans. The Orlando Sentinel even reported that the Magic had to use a $2.6 million exemption (from the Tony Battie injury) to make the Cook/Ariza/Evans deal work under the salary cap. Magic G.M.

    Otis Smith said the Ariza deal was done because Ariza was stuck on the bench behind Lewis and Turkoglu, and the Magic needed Cook’s size in its frontcourt. (Bad call on his part, obviously, since Cook is 6’9” but plays like he’s 5’11”.)

    None of this discounts your theory that Mitch extends some players with an eye toward trading their deal down the line. You’re probably correct in that line of thought.

    But if Orlando made that deal for monetary reasons, we should all pray that Kupchak calls Otis Smith this summer with a “sweet package” of Josh Powell and D.J. in exchange for Dwight Howard.

  67. Its pretty sad that the League didn’t discipline Mark Cuban for his actions in Dallas’s last game and the comments after the third game of the series.

  68. Coaching is always about having your players listen to you.

    If you can’t get them to listen, then you can’t be a good coach. Phil has been successful because he could communicate, but if he couldn’t get his point across for game 4, it is as much Phil’s fault as it is the players.

    Having said that, you also have to take into account that he may value things a bit differently and that he sees a bit more than we do. It is entirely possible that Phil believes that the team will benefit from failure and that such failure will have no bearing on us advancing to the next round.

    So, unlike Popovich who may have simply pulled all the starters after the 2nd quarter to teach his players a lesson, Phil probably decided NOT to call a time out and teach a lesson that way.

    Judging from game 5, it’s hard to fault PJ’s tactic. If we drop game 6, maybe PJ should accept the team’s mercurial nature and call time outs as they are needed and go for the present.

  69. Kurt,

    I agree with you about Phil Jackson. I honestly Phil believes losses like the one in Houston, while horrible, will teach his team something.

    I still think what some of what we are seeing in this Lakers team is youth. Outside of Kobe, Paul, and Odom (our three most consistent performers) this is a still a young team with limited experience. (Fisher is inconsistent because he is near the end of his career).

    I think the threepeat teams were inconsistent because of arrogance, namely Shaq’s influence of believing he could (and would only) turn it on when necessary.

    I agree that this team won’t figure it all out, but maybe they will learn something about effort. I don’t think playing Detroit and Atlanta has prepared Cleveland for a real playoff battle. But if you can win every game by double-digits, it may not matter.

  70. khjohn,

    You think PJ puts too much trust in his players to bring the passion and intensity every night? I dont know. Maybe. Isn’t there supposed to be some trust? I mean, a coach has to have other approaches toward his players besides assumptions of lethargy or dispassion. How would any person grow and gain the elusive consistency i mentioned without someone trusting him/her to make mistakes and ultimately learn and mature. Nobody can become a seasoned veteran, in any field, without trial and error. At some point we all just gotta get out there and play the game, be it sport or profession.

    I understand how folks might want more gametime involvement from PJ, but his 9 rings would negate any call for a different approach.

    I guess my original comment is really about the culture of the franchise. Is there something about the Lakers culture that precedes intermittent passion and effort? Just because they are the Lakers, does that mean they feel entitled to win? Is this attitude passed down from roster to roster?
    IS THERE A LARGER REASON? One that will persist regardless of personnel?

    and thnx for the response, khjohn.

  71. 4 – kobe actually said it

  72. @ Archon
    While that might be part of Sasha’s problem, I don’t think it tells the whole story. He’s been missing wide open 3’s all year. It’s not like people are consistently chasing him off the line. That said, he should simply avoid shooting off the dribble, especially w/ time left on the clock. But that’s just something obvious we say that will never happen all the time, like saying get the ball to Pau.

  73. Speaking of Sasha, my YouTube subscriptions just sent me a new Machine video. They always cheer em up :)

  74. It’s hard to have a shortened rotation when the play of so many of the players has been so inconsistent.

  75. Chris J,
    I’m not saying that the teams that trade for the contracts are making good decisions.

  76. 63) “I also believe has lost a bit of his touch”

    Totally disagree with that; I think that he has overachieved with the Lakers the past three years, especially last year. Getting to the finals in spite of the pre-season issues, the mid-season roster changes, the inexperience of the team, and the injuries was quite an achievement.

  77. Man, I’m surprised that little thing about PJ just went down above. I should put my 2 cents in now, cause it seems like it’s quiet enough tonight as not to incite a war with such a topic.

    Since the Finals, I’ve noticed what I can only perceive as slippage from Phil as well. Too me it seemed like he didn’t really think they could win the thing last year. Deep down he seemed to believe they were ahead of schedule (overachievement). His comments the beginning of this season confirmed that to me. The complete lack of game to game adjustments in that series astounded me. PJ was ALWAYS the master of playoff adjustments.

    Above, it was said that all his Lakers teams were mercurial. Maybe that’s true, but his old Bulls and the 3-peat Laker teams never did the things this team has been allowed to. Uncontested Js, coming to playoffs games without effort. These things just never happened and I would have to say that age is a factor.

  78. (continued)

    Maybe it’s partly this collection of personalities, but he seems to be willing to let “more” things go than ever before and unable to coax every last drop of productivity from his players with his “zenley” ways. Sounds like something that would be a factor of getting older…

  79. Great Googly Moogly May 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Didn’t know ShanWow was drafted 1 spot ahead of Farmar.

    Also, check out the comparisons Adam Morrison was making while in college:

    http://www.nbadraft.net/players/adam-morrison

    Strengths: A special talent … Old school right down to the stripes on the socks … Like a coach on the floor … Incredibly competitive … The game comes very easily to him … A great player in the half court … Can create offense for himself or others … Really excels with the ball in his hands at the top of the key … Very good scorer with complete offensive repertoire … Effortless shooting stroke … Has great anticipation and basketball understanding … Great intangibles, competes and inspires others to play hard … Hard worker … Plays with great intensity and aggressiveness … Fundamentally solid, does all the little things to help his team win … A true competitor. Will not back down from anyone … Wants to take the big shot … Sees the floor well, and is creative finding teammates for baskets … Catches and shoots, or can shoot on the move … Great at moving without the ball … Finds a way to score against better athletes … Great leadership ability …

  80. I suppose I’m always the guy to defend people so take this with a grain of salt.

    Coaches can only do so much. There are times when players tune out their coach and in those instances I think it’s appropriate to make a change (or when a coach is just bad), but for the most part, it’s on the players to play and for coaches to prepare them for what they’ll see. Sure adjustments are important and what you’re telling the players to prepare for is important, but in the end, it’s the players that play. They’re the guys that shoot the shots, make the passes, and execute the game plan on the court.

    So, when talking about Phil, I find it hard to put much (if any) blame on our coach. I understand certain adjustments like playing Fish less against Brooks or other substitution issues, but it’s still on the players to go out there and do what they’re supposed to do. In Fish’s case, he needs to make shots and try to send Brooks to spots on the court where the help is (and in turn the help should be there). As for Phil bringing in Powell or playing Sasha in extended minutes, those guys need to do their jobs too. So while it’s easy to blame the coach when things don’t go right and these players don’t perform, I also say that we’ve all seen these players play well and Phil expects them to play that way when he calls there number.

    And why is this so? Because Phil is one of the only coaches that does the majority of his teaching/coaching in non-game situations. It’s been this way his entire career. In practices, in film sessions, in team meetings, he’s preparing his players. And in the games he’s showing the trust in them that is established from all those other interactions that he’s had with the players in those other situations. It’s why he doesn’t call timeouts – the players know what to do. It’s why in timeouts he’s doing a lot of reminding and not a lot of drawing up plays or displaying x’s and o’s on the board for the players to see. They’ve seen all that stuff before and Phil points it out to them. I mean, how many times during those mic’d up segments is Phil telling players “I told you this is how it would be” or “Remember what we talked about” or “This is what I meant when…” – these are his ways of getting players back on track; the track that was layed that morning or the day before when all the teaching was happening.

    Some may not agree with these techniques. Some may think, with this team that Phil needs to be a different way. But, I think Phil is doing what he knows to work as a coach and what he knows to work in communicating with people. It’s one of the reasons that I think we’ve seen growth from players or performances (even if not sustained in every single outing) that many didn’t think was possible. He’s gotten through to all of these players, but players don’t always play their best or put out the most effort. It’s just the way it is. This is why Kurt’s point at the beginning of this post is so poignant. On some level, we as fans must accept that this is what we have in our team. But it does work. 65 wins and we’re on the verge of advancing again to the WCF. That’s the big picture. Just like Kurt pointed out in his post after game 4, bad games happen. Piss poor performances happen. I know that we’ve (seemingly) seen more than our fair share of these performance – the lost leads, the blown games, the lackluster effort. But we’ve still been winning right? And at a pretty good clip too. Could things be better? I suppose, but unless we’re “expecting” perfection, rather than just “striving” for it, I really don’t see how.

  81. For those who’ve watched Phil more closely and for longer than I have – I realize he’s not an elite X’s and O’s coach, but how has he typically been adjustments-wise? People have said he’s good at between-game adjustments but not in-game adjustments. I do remember how in the 04 semis Phil didn’t want to pack the lane, and it was the players that convinced him to doing so to stop Parker.

    I won’t pretend to have any great knowledge of Phil’s adjustment capabilities, back then I didn’t watch the games as closely. But I think it’d be more helpful to the debate to bring in specific examples from the Bulls/3-peat days (examples of either great Phil adjustments, or a lack thereof) to strengthen an argument. It’d be difficult straight from memory, but it’d be the best way to tell if Phil really has slipped a bit from the old days (at least in terms of adjustments, which it seemed we were lacking last Finals).

  82. “Beat LA” chants coming from the Denver home crowd..

  83. 83 –

    yeap we were going to draft shannon but cleveland took him right before we were able to get him. (which is why we drafted farmar)

    then mitch kept his eye on him and therefore when the opportunity arrived to snatch him they pulled the trade

  84. I want Odom to guard Carmelo, Odom has had A LOT of success when he guards him.

  85. don’t underestimate the Lakers and their coaches.

    just don’t.

  86. I agree with Darius’ 1st point about players maybe tuning PJ out a little. I actually almost typed that earlier. If true, I think it’s kind of scary. I would think that’s the kind of thing he thinks about when he jokes that he won’t be back. Actually, every year he gets older, when more injuries and the grind of coaching, players tuning you out would have to a BIG piece of whether you want to come back and do it another year.

    Snoopy, that’s a great point. It’s late and that’s not my thing, but I’ll do what I can. One that stands out in my mind is 2003 – Rd 1 Lakers vs T’Wolves. The Wolves found themselves up 2-1 against us going into game 4 by stealing game 2 in LA and winning game 3 at home. They were playing very hard and capatilizing on various mistakes we were making. The media was eating it up.

    One big thing they did was full court pressing and trapping in the backcourt. It was really disrupting our offense. For game 4, Phil stopped bringing Shaq up between the high post & halfcourt (where he was getting trapped hard by Troy Hudson and Anthony Peeler) and sent him to the front of the rim. There, with crisp passing he could score against one defender in the low post and make the Wolves pay for their press & trapping scheme. Phil called it a “pressure release”. We took the next 3 games to win in 6. Depleted by injury and skill dropoffs we then lost to SA, where Kobe and Fisher cried on the bench, but that’s a sad story.

    Maybe Darius can do better. He seems to do well with historical accounts, or maybe not. He didn’t seem to buy my adjustments argument. And yes, a quick search of ESPN contributed to this comment.

  87. omg, Charles Barkley just said “C’mon now, a woman can’t beat me at push-ups; this ain’t cookin’ or cleanin’,” on national television, and followed it up with the classic “women don’t need watches because there’s a clock on the stove” line. I literally died laughing.

  88. I feel bad for those on the newly formed Denver/Cleveland bandwagon.

    Let’s start with Cleveland:
    A. They beat Detroit, which had a losing record in the reg season.
    B. They beat Atlanta, which wouldn’t even be a playoff team in the west.
    C. The Lakers beat ‘em both times in the reg season, and neither game was close.

    I’m not saying that LAL will have an easy time with CLE. I’m saying that CLE’s gravy train will come to an end if they play LAL in the finals.

    As for Denver, well, this entry’s too long now. Let’s just say they don’t match up with LAL at all.

  89. Sometimes when all you look at is outcomes you can arrive at the wrong conclusion. Coaches can have the wrong strategy and still win. Just like coaches can do a great job of X’s &0’s and still lose.

    Phil Jackson may do great things in film sessions and during practice but no question about it, his recent teams are at a disadvantage (despite their great talent) because of his in game passiveness. I challenge any of you to give me any significant and timely in-game changes that he has made recently. While other coaches break our rhythm with time outs. Phil saves his for the last few minutes of the game when the game has already been decided. While other coaches change match-ups when opponents get hot Phil sticks to the original script. While other coaches are working the refs for calls Phil sits there.

    On a team everyone has to do there part both in practice and during the game. This includes the coach. As we ascend in the playoffs and the differences in talent between the Lakers and their opponent decrease. If Phil doesn’t start coaching “in- game” we will surely lose to a team that we can beat if everyone does their part.

  90. clutch,
    I wasn’t saying that the players have tuned Phil out. I was saying that tuning a coach out is one thing that I think coaches do deserve blame for. I think Phil still has the ear(s) of his players. I just don’t think the players do what they’re supposed to or play up to their standards in every game. But in the end, I accept that in a similar way to Kurt explained in the body of this post.

    As for Phil adjustments, I honestly can’t think of too many that had to do with X’s and O’s. I do recall an adjustment in last year’s Finals in the way we ran the P&R with Kobe and Pau where Kobe was drawing out the 2nd defender in order to accept the double team which opened up LO at the FT line and put us in a 4 on 3 situation with a slashing Pau and shooters in each corner and LO creating from the FT line. But that’s only one example. I do think that Phil usually makes adjustments with matchups rather than X’s and O’s adjustments. And usually he does this by putting his best wing defender on PG’s (especially PG’s that are the heart of their team’s offense). He put Pippen on Magic in the ’91 Finals. He did the same thing with Pippen on Mark Jackson in the playoffs against the Pacers and he also used Pippen on Stockton for stretches in those Bulls/Jazz Finals matchups. He also put Kobe on Mark Jackson in the 2001 Finals and has used Kobe/Ariza on Tony Parker and Jason Kidd in past playoff series. If we’re talking X’s and O’s, maybe Gatinho has some thoughts. He’s usually spot on with anything historical.

    I should also note that Tex Winter is one guy that Phil has always leaned on as an X’s and O’s aide as we run *his* offense. So, if it seems that we don’t have as quick a response with X’s and O’s recently, we may want to remember that Tex is recovering from his stroke and not currently with the team. He’s also been less a presence on the sideline the past couple of seasons because of his shingles and his diminishing health overall. Which reminds me, get well soon Tex, we miss you.

  91. 92 –
    we have to get past denver before we even move on to cleveland

  92. Im not say that Phil Jackson is a bad coach. Im just saying that I cant blame the players like Fisher for allowing Brooks to Run Crazy when anyone can see that he doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with him (just one example). Few coaches would let Brooks scores so many point without switching a faster/younger player on him. These types of delays in making obvious changes cost us points. These points cost us games. Now is no time for long term teaching points. Each game gets us closer to the championship. I want phil to coach with urgency and then maybe his players will play with urgency

  93. 92 – I love the people/media picking Denver and Cleveland. 1) Those two teams deserve it; regardless of their opponent they’ve played well, and deserve respect.

    2) The main reason I like it is because I feel the Lakers could benefit from being labeled the underdogs. People have generally termed it different things (sense of entitlement, complacency, whatever). For two playoffs, this team has been favored by the media in every series. This is not a team that generally plays with an edge unless their backs are pushed to the wall. I think being labeled the underdogs would serve as a great motivator, and give our guys more edge in their play.

  94. snoopy, normally I’d think being labelled the underdog is a motivator, but with our team, I just don’t know. They may see it as an excuse not to perform.

    and I can also live with PJ’s not making in-game adjustments as much as long as his long-term strategy works. You can’t have a long term strategy that asks for players to think for themselves and interfere before they have a chance to. it’s a strategy that only Phil, Sloan and Popovich can employ since other coaches’ jobs aren’t as secure.

  95. I think that it would be fine if the Lakers are taken 7 games this year in every series. That seemed to be what the doctor ordered for the Celtics last year, by the time they were in the Finals against us, they knew how to battle for a series win and did just that to us. They were also a very good team at the same time, but are not the Lakers this year also. Lakers the underdogs, great bring it on…

    Talent, Perseverance, Desire

  96. 98 – Harold,

    If your first thought is true, we have wayyy bigger problems than any opponent we will face.

  97. “Machine slap Wafer’s ball from rear
    ehhhh Machine no like how that sound”

    Hilarious!

  98. one thing freaks me out the most is when Phil Jackson doesnt call time outs. Also, if the lakers beat houston by 30 or 40 in game 1, houston would have been swept by now. instead, lakers lost game one, and it injected life into houston, and houston started to believe they can win the series. hell, if i was fighting with mike tyson and threw the first punch and it connected, i would probably think i can beat him too. Thats exactly what happened to houson, because they have done it, and strongly believe they can do it again. Its the lakers that got themselves into this mess.

    [edited for wildly unfounded speculation]

  99. 96) “These types of delays in making obvious changes cost us points.”

    The problem is that there is not a clear-cut alternative to Fisher yet. Farmar and Brown have both been inconsistent, are also both inexperienced, and haven’t shown that they are “Brooks stoppers”. They might be marginally better on defense, but not enough where it’s a clear choice.

  100. Darius,
    I remember watching a very successful coach who also didn’t believe in making too many in-game changes and also did almost all his teaching between games — John Wooden. Of course that makes me older than Methuselah. It seems he also had a pretty successful run.

    It is a unique style, but one I would expect players with high IQs (Walton, Wilkes, Alcindor, Warren) would thrive in. The players must be smart and mentally tough to be able to function in all kinds of game situations without coaching interference.

    I think it is the best possible situation for a player, but they must be able to handle themselves. I wonder if this isn’t the reason most ‘modern’ players don’t enjoy systems run in this fashion – and why most coaches won’t try to institute them.

    This may also be why Sasha and Lamar seem to go through periods where the struggle.

  101. Craig,
    Wooden’s run was a bit before my time, but everything you said makes complete sense and rings true to me. Phil shows an extreme trust in his players and I think that breeds confidence in them. And he does it in more ways than just not calling timeouts or rarely barking play calls. He also is a guy that will never mind calling on an end of the bench player for a certain spark. He lets players know to always be ready, and then he’ll follow through and call their number when most wonder why that guy is even playing. He did this masterfully with the Bulls (calling on guys like Randy Brown or Jud Buechler) and has done this with the Lakers as well (as recently as calling Farmar’s number in this Rockets series). He has a touch with players that has been rarely seen in this league and I think that’s how he gets his results. In the end, I know there are faults in every player and with every coach, but I’d rather take the faults that we have with our guys over the ones that other teams have with theirs.

  102. 103
    Please go back and look at the tapes of all of the games in this series so far. It is “very clear” that Brooks has struggled offensively when guarded by Farmar. In Addition, look at the lakers +/- when Farmar is in the game. Watch these match-ups tonight and you will see. Farmar is a much better match for Brooks’ speed.

  103. So basically it’s about mutual trust? Phil coaches the way he does, because he trusts that the players can handle it, can handle themselves on the floor, and are smart enough to improve without being held by the hand every step of the way. And from the players, when your coach treats you as if you are smart and reliable, it instills confidence but also a certain kind of trust in the coach.

    Only problem I see with that approach is that with the wrong kinds of players it won’t work (unless you get them when they’re young and can train them from infancey?), and it takes time for the positive effects and advantages to show. On the other hand, it also means that the problem Adelman had with Wafer probably never will happen with any player on a team coached by Phil. I for can’t picture any one of our players throwing a hissy-fit at being pulled from the floor, to the point where Phil has to eject him…

  104. khjohn,
    There is more to playing than just defense – what happens on offense is just as important. Farmar played very well overall in game 3, but has been mediocre at best the rest of the series. And Farmar was clearly worse than Fisher in the regular season. I do not think that one game overcomes the past year. Fisher is much steadier, and has dramatically more experience. At this point, I think Fisher is a better risk than Farmar.

    Personally, I would give Brown a slight edge over Fisher, but not by a huge amount, and I don’t fault Jackson for siding with Fisher over Brown.

  105. exhelodrvr
    Fisher’s offense is off track during this series. Please look at the +/- stats for Fisher V Farmar in this series. This statistic is important because it gives you the overall impact of a player when he is on the court (taking both offense and defense into account). Im not saying that fisher is a bad player. I am saying that it is clear that brooks is a bad match up for him.

  106. Darius,
    John Wooden also had a mantra of not calling a timeout before the opposing coach – he didn’t want to even imply that his team was any weaker than the other team in any way – who will blink first kind of stuff. That’s one reason (besides the talent) that his teams could impose their will on another team and just destroy them mentally.

    He was a real tyrant in practice and his practices were often tougher on the players than the games.

    What he taught was incredible self discipline – see Kareem – and dedication to your personal life goals. What this did was reduce the game pressure of his players and allow them to utilize their full skill set while playing. That is how he got average players to function under extremely stressful conditions.

    I think that is what Phil is aiming for. Between Mitch’s eye for what fits and Phil’s ability to allow each player to do what he does best, I think accounts for the Lakers depth; with what most people thought were 2nd rate players – see Shannon Brown.

  107. HAHA [edited for wildly unfounded speculation]

    now i’m curious!

  108. zephid/35: This thread has moved on, but just to clarify, going from 160 to 190 or 130 on 400 shots is more than three standard deviations. While that is not impossible (almost nothing is, when it comes to probabilities of this type), it is not something that is a likely outcome of just statistical variation. I think an analysis that some one had a couple of threads ago which detailed Sasha’s on-court times with Kobe et al is more compelling.

  109. [Just for Kurt:] Kurt, is there something I can do to avoid moderation of even very non-controversial posts such as the one about statistical variation that I just sent in?

  110. Mimsy,
    I think it is about trust and how that trust instills belief in players. This is one reason, imo, that Phil grew weary of RadMan. How can you trust a player that has the mental swings and attention to detail lapses that Rad had (and unlike a guy like LO doesn’t always go hard)? I also think this is why Phil has always loved veteran players. Those guys have been around the block and know what it takes to play in this league. They also understand roles better and are more likely to perform in the manner that you ask them to. A perfect example of this is how Phil continues to play Fish or how he gave WOW minutes over Farmar. Both Shannon and Fish are *steady* players while Farmar can be a bit of a wildcard. So even though Farmar (probably) has the most natural talent (I say probably because Brown is showing much more ability in every passing game), Fish and Brown are the more steady players and they play a much more controlled game that is easier to predict. This leads to easier trust from Phil because he knows that when he puts those players in the game that they (historically for Fish and recently for WOW) will play their role and not go outside of themselves to try and make plays. It’s much easier to trust that than it is to trust a player like Farmar or Rad – who while having different issues from eachother subscribe to the same unpredicability in their performance(s). It’s also why Phil is much quicker with the hook on Farmar – is some senses Jordan is a runaway train that must be corraled at the first sign of going off the tracks.

  111. serious computer issues delaying new post but I will get something up as soon as I can.

  112. That makes perfect sense Darius. Adding to that and my earlier post, we, or at least I, only see the players during games. I don’t attend practices and film sessions, I don’t see them interact outside of game night, so I don’t see every day who works hard and who focuses, who asks the intelligent questions and who it is that might have a habit of drifting our zoning out during film sessions.

    It just occurred to me that this could explain what looks like very strange substitutions from Phil at times… rather than going by numbers he goes to someone he knows he can trust out there. Interesting. I’ll have to think more on this. :)

  113. what concerns me is we are not seeing consistent intensity from 1-12. we see kobe forcing, lamar and pau lacksidasical, drew lost, fish aging, sasha pressing, shannon and trevor playing scared, luke being luke, farmar trying to prove he is who knows what. In the past its as if we knew, with a doubt what we had and what we were going to get in terms of effort and belief. Since the melt down against the pistons there seems to be a character flaw in this roster that has extended for years. The talent is here, but there has to be a belief across the board that this team can overcome adversity, and we haven’t seen it. We are front runners. We need the lead, we need home court, we need to get in the first punch. It’s as if if it isnt easy this team finds an excuse not to produce. I’m scared against Denver and Cleveland right now. I see a championship heart in Boston, I see it in the Rockets. I dont see it in this interation of the Lakershow

  114. Kurt –

    I went back and read that post re LO that you linked to, and I thought it interesting that you basically called for the Pau trade – including the key components – a month and a half before it happened. Good on you, mate! ;)

    We can debate whether or not the Pau move would have been made if not for AB going down a month after your post, but still, kudos are long overdue. :)

  115. Did anyone else get a laugh out of TNT’s approach the final minutes of the Denver-Dallas game last night?

    They carried on like they’d just won the NBA title, SuperBowl, Ed McMahon giveaway and a date with the world’s hottest model at the same time.

    “For the first time in 25 years, the Nuggets are heading to the Western Conference Finals!”

    It made me appreciate Buss, West, Kupchak and others all the more. Other teams wet their pants over a trip to the conference finals, and Lakers fans get pissed if that’s as far as the team goes in the playoffs.

    By my rough count, the Lakers have made the western finals 14 times since 1985 (Denver’s last appearance there) and won six titles in that span. oh, and guess who beat Denver the last time it went that far? Here’s hoping to a repeat of that result.

  116. Any word on how LO is feeling for this game?

  117. luke walton has done nothing all year to contribute. the last game he took 2 three point shot’s and did not come close. he is not a shooter have him stop thowing away games. trade him but please keep Ariza

  118. Lakers need to use players that want to play such as Shannon Brown, Josh Powell and Mbenga. Pau Gasol needs to play the game and stop whinning to the Refs.