Second Verse, Same as the First

Darius Soriano —  September 30, 2009

 

Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Lakers

The other day, I read an interesting piece over at Silver Screen and Roll about what players the Lakers should deploy as their second unit.  It focussed mostly on the Lakers’ backcourt rotation and who should play behind Kobe and Fish to allow the team to perform its best at all times.  You should check it out if you have a minute.  Anyways, that post and Kurt’s recent portrait of how Artest will fit into the Triangle got me thinking about roles, minutes, rotations, and style of play.  It got me thinking about how this team will play over the course of a full 48 minutes and what we can expect on a nightly basis from the starters and the bench.  And it had me wondering, how much will next years team look (and play) like the one that just won the title?

First, let’s look back at last season.  When the season started, the contrast in style between our first and second units was stark.  Our starting group of Fish, Kobe, RadMan/Walton, Gasol, and Bynum were a traditional half court team.  Yes, they got out and ran when the opportunity presented itself.  And yes, they strayed away from running the Triangle as consistently as past teams coached by Phil Jackson.  But, for the most part, this first unit played in the half court and with a controlled, deliberate style.  I understand that when you look at the pace that the team played at last season (5th fastest in the league) that this doesn’t quite add up.  But in reality, our pace was increased because we often took the first “good shot that presented itself – think Fisher or Kobe pujits, P&R’s on the secondary break, one-pass-then-shoot jumpers, post-lane sprints by our bigs, etc.  But when we really evaluate the Lakers’ first unit, they ran their sets, pounded the ball inside, and played the pick and roll with Kobe and Gasol/Bynum.  Ultimately, this unit’s goal was to punish teams with their ability to play efficient half court basketball.

Then, after about four or five minutes of this style of play, the Lakers would bring in Odom, Farmar, and Ariza and everything would change.  On almost every single possession, the Lakers would push the ball.  Farmar would get the outlet pass and get the ball upcourt as quickly as possible.  Odom would snatch defensive rebounds and proceed to quickly change ends in the hopes of creating an easy basket.  Ariza would pressure ball handlers, force steals, and fill lanes looking for a lob from Jordan or an easy tip in off a missed attempt in transition.  The pace only ratcheted up more when Sasha would replace Kobe and the Lakers would have an entire unit looking to run at every opportunity.  This contrast in styles was one of the main reasons our second unit was so successful when the season started.   I often compared it to the NFL when a team would use a big, bruising running back to soften up defenses and then replace him with a change-of-pace speedster to catch the opposition off guard and put them on their heels.  When teams played us, they not only lacked the depth to tangle with a team that went ten deep, but they also didn’t know how to deal with a team as diverse as ours.  I mean, how do you prepare for this type of schizophrenia from a team?  The fact is, teams really couldn’t prepare and fans saw leads balloon and our bench universally hailed as one of the best in the league.

As the season wore on though, this diversity dissipated.  Farmar got hurt and Fish played more minutes.  Bynum also went down and Odom became a starter.   Then, Walton ceded his starting position to Trevor.  Gradually, the quickness and frenetic pace of our second unit got blended with our starting group and our bench became a snail of its former self.  Gone was the lineup based on speed and agility and put in its place was a more steady and controlled group (Walton, Powell, Mbenga) that looked like a watered down version of our first unit.  They became a more half court team where post ups of Luke, stagger screens for Sasha, and pick and pops for Powell were the complements around the all around games of Gasol (playing huge minutes) and Kobe (still not getting the type of rest many thought would come with a team this deep).  When Farmar finally returned, the second unit tried to return to its running ways, but the transformation to a slower unit was almost entirely complete.  Ultimately we saw Jordan struggle with a hodge-podge lineup where Ariza and Odom were replaced with Walton and Powell and the uptempo style that was so effective earlier in the season was no more.  (On a side note, this is around the same time that Jordan started questioning his “role”.  Soon, the Lakers would also trade for Ammo and WOW.  Then the playoffs would start and any semblance of what our second unit used to be was scrapped for the methodical nature of the second season.  But I digress.)

Now let’s look at this upcoming season.  Regular commenter Stephen makes a great point about the potential style of next year’s team in the comments about integrating Artest into the Triangle:

The reason is Ron and the Triangle pretty much have to work well as the team’s quick-strike fast break attack has taken a major hit.  Ariza was a key ingredient to the break and this yr’s team has no speed on the wing w/Artest,Walton or Morrison.  This year’s Lakers are going to have to do a lot of half-court grinding it out type games. Of course the team is well equiped to do just that.

Think about the ten players that are most likely to play significant minutes every night.  Fisher, Kobe, Artest, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Walton, Farmar, Brown, and Sasha.  Of those ten players, only Farmar and Sasha are players that consistently like to play at a fast pace (more on them later).  And even though Brown is a player that is capable of making some W-O-W plays, he has played his best ball when he got significant minutes with the starting group and he could play a half court game where he got open shots off the movement and motion of the offense.  And while Gasol and Bynum are players that like to run the floor and are athletic enough to beat their man down the court as they quickly change ends, they are still best suited setting up in the half court and punishing opponents with their ability to post up, pass, and get offensive rebounds.  This same sentiment holds true for Odom.  Yes, he is fantastic at initiating the fast break after securing the defensive rebound – and next season I expect he’ll still do plenty of this.  But, I also know that Lamar has been at his very best (for the Lakers) as an active body in the half court where he can be rewarded by playing with gifted passers and Bigs that actually require attention from defenses by cutting to open spaces, getting offensive rebounds, and (when working to get his own) penetrating against the slower PF’s that are matched up with him.

So when evaluating the pace and style of the next seasons’ second unit, I anticpate a higher priority to be placed on slowing down the tempo and executing the offense.  I expect for the second team to play a very similar style to the first unit and to punish teams with execution.  And Farmar and Sasha will either adjust or ride the bench.  I actually think this style of play will benefit both players as (last season) they were allowed to free lance too much (Farmar) or did not get enough minutes with players that create shots for them (Sasha) and it led to forced looks in transition and the firing up of shots that weren’t in the best interests of the offense.  When it comes to Farmar, I do think he can excel playing a controlled half court game.  We saw this in last year’s playoffs against Houston in the game that Fisher was suspended.  Farmar did a very good job of running our sets and gettting open jumpshots through the motions of our sets.  He shot the ball with confidence and it crossed over to the other aspects of his game (defense, overall decision making, focus).  As for Sasha, who really knows?  I think he’s capable of having a bounce back year and I also think that despite the presence of Artest (and Ron’s ability to play minutes as the Kobe of the second unit), that Sasha will be needed for extended stretches and we will need him to produce.  Can he do it?  If you know the answer to that, please pass along tomorrow’s lottery numbers to me as well.

Again, look at the Lakers’ roster and, specifically, the players that will likely make up our second team: Brown/Farmar, Sasha, Luke/Artest, Odom, Bynum.  At any given time, Farmar and Sasha are likely to be playing with Odom, Artest and/or Luke, and Bynum.  Besides Odom, none of those players are fast break players and all of them play better in the half court than they do in transition.  I think the coaches recognize this, will adjust their mindset accordingly, and it will be reflected in the philosophy and approach of how this team plays.  As Stephen stated, this team is well equipped to play a grind it out style.  This goes for our first team and our second team.   Only time will tell if this comes to fruition, but I think we can expect a more consistent approach to how we’re going to play on offense this upcoming season from unit to unit.  Basically, I think we’ll see a similar style from the first and second units.  Part of this is our personnel and part of this is the grooming of our young players (I’m looking at you Farmar and Brown) to perform roles that we’ll need in upcoming seasons.  But this is just a hypothesis as I look at the current make up of the team.  What do you think?

-Darius

Darius Soriano

Posts

65 responses to Second Verse, Same as the First

  1. Kurt,
    The most interesting thing regarding media day that came up was the news Bynum said he “must” wear a brace on the knee he injured last year. I put in an email to my friend who is an orthopedic surgeon (he hasn’t responded yet) to see if that makes even a tiny bit of sense. I doubt it does… I have never heard of a player in any sport required to wear a knee brace more than 8 months after tearing an MCL and Andrew is saying the Doctors told him he needs to wear it for the rest of his career. Something smells fishy. Please look into this.

  2. I had questions about that, too. Brace as in neoprin (sp?) sleeve? Full on brace like your an offensive guard in the NFL? Does it impact his movement? Is it more psychological than physical? I will ask, however due to some real life scheduling issues I’m not going to be getting to as many team preseason events as I’d like. But I’ll see what I can find.

  3. Not to beat a dead horse, but this is where Trevor will be missed most. He was always running on the break, whether with the bench or starters and this often lead to easy points in transition. We still have guys who can get out and turn on the jets, just not guys who go at the rim quite like Ariza (other than a little from KB & Odom). Still, with that said, the biggest obstacle for this year’s team is knowing that every team is coming at them hard every night. As if Charlotte needed more incentive to beat us… But, we had a big target as defending WCF last year and we won it all, so who knows? Let’s get ready to roll.

  4. off subject (and it might have been said already) but Artest was on TMZ the other day…you know that part where they are all in the office talking about the stories. They were asking him about Lamar and his marriage…and then asked if he talked to Kobe about it…his response was “Do you talk to God?”

  5. If Kobe were 25 I would be more worried about a slower style of play, but this transition is, in my view, a transformation into the style of play we will see in the remainder of Kobe’s career.

  6. Aaron and Kurt,
    I’m concerned about ‘Drew wearing a brace “for the rest of his career” as well. Wearing protective gear like goggles or a mask (ala Rip Hamilton) makes sense when its protecting something fragile like your nose or your eyes. But for your knee? Is Drew that predisposed to knee injuries that he really needs a brace for the rest of his playing days? That sounds a bit scary and truly does concern me. Hopefully it is just a neoprene sleeve or something like that. Because if it’s that big, bulky thing he wore during the playoffs, I could see that being a real hindrance to his mobility.

  7. Darius,
    I too would like to see the second unit be more efficient in running half court sets, but I hope that their mentality is still run-first. We can definitely improve in the half court and that should be an area of emphasis. However, it shouldn’t affect the identity of the second unit. The change of pace really adds another dimension to our team. Getting the crowd energized and demoralizing the other team are intangibles that may be more valuable than a few extra points due to efficient half court execution over the course of the game.

    Following SSnR’s post, I was wondering if Kobe could stay in the lineup as the 3 w/ Farmar & Brown while Pau rests first, then when Pau comes back we could have Brown/Vujacic/Farmar + Artest, which would keep at least two of the three 1-3 players as finishers and one as a shooter in transition at all times.

  8. Darius

    Nice post. One thing I think we should consider is that our more controlled half-court style has less to do with personell than it does Phil’s general philosophy. One of the reasons he loves the triangle is because it leaves us in a spot where we can get back in transition if we miss, and as Mike DeAntoni showed us, a SSOL offense gives up a lot of transition buckets. Ariza was a fun guy to have on the break, but I don’t think he alone changed the pace of our bench when he was out there. I think it was more a function of the bench having guys like Jordan, Sasha and Ariza, all of whom weren’t quite used to eachother and the system and tended to push the ball when in doubt.

    This seaon, specifically, I think LO should come off the bench. His ability to facilitate when we need it, along with his ability to mesh with Gasol in a much more dynamic way than Bynum makes him worth the contract we gave him.

    Brown and Farmar will duke it out to prove who’s more consistent, with one ending up with garbage time minutes by the end of the season and leaving LA in the summer. Meanwhile, I think we’re stuck with Sasha relieving Kobe. Either that or a 2PG set with Jordan, Brown, Artest, LO, and a center (prolly Bynum)

    What I’m really curious to find out, is who is going to be our CLOSING 5. Is Bynum going to close games? Is Artest? is LO? Not all 3 can, in my opinion, and that will affect a lot of this “can Artest fit in” talk more than anything.

  9. Not to hijack the thread, but here is what I’ve learned so far — Bynum plans on wearing a brace just like the one he had in the playoffs. He’s actually going to try playing with one of those braces on both knees this season as insurance. We’ll see how this effects his play.

  10. I still think they are very capable of picking up where they left off. Ariza isn’t the end all be all of the the transition game the Lakers had. LO’s move to the starting line-up when Drew went down was the biggest dent in the 2nd Unit’s style.

    Still, I think the change of pace was nice, but ultimately, it hurt when the injuries hit, because the bench continued to try to play that way and seemed out of sorts staying within the offense. I’d much rather them be able to have more base offense plays then the freelancing, so that the frenetic place doesn’t lead to the eventual letdown and comeback we saw so much last season.

    It seemed they blew more leads then they opened

    I’m not worried about Bynum’s knee braces. He needs to have the mental comfort of knowing he can play freely, and if the brace will give that to him, I’d prefer it. Hopefully, he will eventually come to realize he’ll be fine. He was tentative (for good reason) when he came back, and rarely did we see the patient Drew who beasted his defender to the basket for a point blank shot. His confidence will bein his legs. He stated in his interview with Mason and Ireland that all he did was work out on leg strength.

  11. #8. Travis,
    I agree about player placement and the transition from offense to defense. The Triangle is great at putting players in position to get back on D and to grab offensive rebounds (two things that are normally in contrast to eachother, see Spurs, San Antonio). However, I do think that, in recent seasons Phil has played more to his personell. I think that because he had the Farmar/Ariza/Odom group on the second unit that he used tempo to his advantage. But when the season wore on and only Farmar remained on the second unit he started to change back to a slower style based off the shifted personell on the second unit. Not so coincidentally, this change to a slower style coincided with Farmar complaining about his “role” and how he was confused with how he should be playing. So, in the end, I think it’s a bit of both. I do think that Phil would prefer a more controlled style based off the execution of the Triangle. But I also think he’s looking at his players (2nd unit included) and thinking “running isn’t really my best option with *this* group.”

  12. Darius,

    Are you dforce?

  13. Wondah,
    Not familiar with that reference? Ellaboration?

  14. Kurt,
    From what I was told by doctors in the past is that braces don’t at all help prevent injury. I can’t tell you how often I have heard that. And he said his doctors told him he needs to wear a brace on that one knee. It doesn’t add up from what I was told in the past. Regarding his play with that brace it should be mentioned that Andrew didn’t start dominating until he took the brace off he was wearing last year (and it was more minimal than the clunker he will be wearing last season). I hope it wasn’t a coincidence because right after he took it off is when he started playing his best basketball. But this is dwarfed by the questions about why he “needs” to wear a huge brace for the rest of his career. It amazes me this has gotten so little coverage so far. I expect more serous questions about this toward Andrew in the next few days.

  15. Re: Bynum’s brace

    Not to compare my playground games vs. anything that goes on in the NBA, but I can offer some insight to recovering from knee surgey and how a brace plays a role…

    When I was 20 I blew out my right knee, tearing the ACL, while playing basketball at the park. I spun around my man and went to the hoop, made a layup, and as I planted my leg to begin turning back upcourt to play defense, my leg gave way and that was that. No contact, and I was making a move any ballplayer makes countless times over the course of any pickup or competitive game.

    After I had surgery and did the rehab, I was told to wear a bulky knee brace for a time (I don’t recall how long) until the leg had strengthened itself again. But what happened is that long after that allotted time had passed, in my mind I still didn’t trust that my knee was 100 percent. Physically there was nothing to suggest anything more was wrong, but mentally I wanted that brace on, just in case.

    I probably went 10 years after the surgery insisting that I wear the brace each time I took the court. It was a security blanket, nothing more. And yes, it impacted my play.

    This isn’t something I’ve spoken to Andrew about so I have no insight into his mindset on the matter. But generally speaking, don’t underestimate the mental aspect of recovering from knee surgery.

    He’s young, has had two freak injuries in as many seasons — maybe it’s a just a mental thing he needs to work through before he trusts his body again and decides the shed the brace for good?

  16. Perhaps there is an issue with the stability of Bynums knees when hit from the outside? (or is that medical nonsense?)

  17. I figured Bynum’s assertion about the brace was because Sublimations, or whatever he did last year tend to reoccur once you’ve had one. Thus at higher risk, he might wear the brace.

    Have people here had experience with these braces? How do they affect your mobility?

  18. Defense will dictate the initial offensive attack for the Lakers whether it’s a fast-break or a half-court set.

    I think the addition of Ron’s perimeter and help post defense combined with Kobe’s all-around defense and the frontcourt’s shot-blocking abilities will result in more fast break opportunities this season. Speed isn’t the first requirement of a proper fast-break. A lot of times last year, the second unit’s speed couldn’t produce during fast-breaks because of poor decisions and poor floor balance.

    I really don’t think this team has any problems with balancing a break and a half-court attack against any team only because they’re that versatile.

    I think they should balance it out since fast breaks will save our post players from the rigors of the season and half-courts will do the same to our perimeter shooters.

    This year, Phil will study his rotation much closer. Until enough of the second unit start playing better consistently, I don’t think we’ll more than two bench players on the floor at the same time early in the season.

    He’ll also be looking at which bench players compliment which starters most as well as which combination of first and second unit can maintain the effectiveness of their offense, defense, and rebounding.

    This will make the pre-season that much more important to Andrew, Jordan, Shannon, Sasha, Luke, Adam, and Josh. Phil will certainly be asking more of them now that they have two NBA Finals under their belt.

    But, we’ll see how fast Artest can get the Triangle and how quick his teammates get used to playing with him.

  19. I have a feeling the refs are over playing their hand like MLB umps did years ago.

    MLB showed them what’s what, and moved on. The NBA is doing that. Of course I think these refs are, most likely, the best at what they do. But are they really that much better than the refs that would replace them? I can’t see it.

    I understand they have to fight for what they feel is right, but when you have no leverage, how long can you afford to fight?

  20. If the second unit does end up being more half-court focused, might this lead to improved production from Jordan and Sasha in the playoffs? Maybe they were less effective last year because they were used to playing at a faster pace? So might they have been out of rhythm while trying to produce in a higher pressure environment than they were used to? Or was it not realistic to expect them to produce in the playoffs the same way they did during the early part of last year’s regular season?

    Also, the possibility of a slower paced offense makes me wonder if an unanticipated/unintended side effect could be that it wears the players down more.

    I don’t remember where I read it (or if I’m remembering the article’s content accurately – i was probably only 10 or 12 at the time) but when the Larry Bird-era Celtics were starting to break down (late 80’s/early 90’s?), I read an article suggesting part of the reason was because players’ bodies actually experience more wear and tear in half-court focused offenses because of the increased likelihood of physical contact, such as in post play.

    The writer contrasted that idea with the conventional wisdom of the time that fast breaks take a bigger toll on the body because of the higher pace and frequency of running. But he pointed out it might actually be less stressful than half-court, slow-down offenses because there were fewer instances of physical contact. He asserted that it was this physical contact – forearms in the back, pushing and shoving for position – that were responsible for most of the wear and tear on players’ bodies.

    I don’t disagree with slowing down the tempo based on the personnel, and realize that part of the reason older teams don’t run is because they’re generally not as effective at it. But it was something this post made me think about, and I’d hate to see the team too worn down by the time the playoffs come around. Hopefully the team’s depth will prevent that.

  21. Bynum said his doc told him he has to wear a brace. And that makes no sense from what I have heard. So then I guess Bynum might be lying so he doesn’t come off as being not secure on that knee. Because an MCL tear is 5% as bad as an ACL tear. He is 100 % on that knee for a while now… and doctors say braces do not prevent injury at all.

  22. Wondah,
    Nope, that’s not me.

  23. Great Post Darius. I think we all can agree that the second unit will be as effective, if not more effective than it was last season by going from a run and gun style to a more half court grind. I think some of the biggest questions are going to be, can Ammo knock down open shots like he did in the summer league, can sasha finally get back to his sharp shooting ways (i.e. 2007-2008), and will farmar/sasha stay disciplined enough to give up open perimeter looks in transition for a better looks in the half court?

  24. It will be really disappointing if Bynum is never able to reach his full potential because of the injuries.

    On another note, how long do we give Sasha Vujacic to regain his shooting form before we start looking for a real shooter in free agency in the season?

    Also, if Farmer has a breakout year this year that will prove that a lot of players only work hard in the off season when money is on the line (he’s in a contract year)

  25. I read that the braces will hinder Bynum’s mobility, but also that it’s a preventative measure, not a corrective or therapeutic one. I forget the source, I believe it’s the OCRegister blog but I don’t have the time to check.

    And in keeping with the logic of the Ramones, the 3rd verse was different from the 1st.

  26. 1. We don’t even know what kind of brace Andrew will be wearing.

    2. Anyone who suggests that a brace cannot prevent injury is talking from a position of total ignorance.

    Certain kinds of knee braces can most certainly prevent certain kinds of knee injuries. No brace can prevent all knee injuries, but contact injuries (like the one that sidelined Andrew last year, as opposed to the subluxation that sidelined him the year before) most certainly can be minimized by a knee brace.

    Virtually every NFL team orthopedic recommends that offensive linemen wear knee braces to prevent contact injuries at the line of scrimmage. Are they 100% effective? Of course not; nothing is or can be. But they most definitely prevent many injuries over the course of an offensive lineman’s career.

    That said, the type of brace that can prevent injuries necessarily must be a bulky brace. These braces do inhibit mobility (which is why NFL defensive linemen generally don’t wear them; d-linemen need to be more mobile than o-linemen).

    Of everything that Andrew said about the topic the one thing that worries me is that he indicated that he has not spent a lot of time wearing the brace during his offseason training. Therefore, it is impossible for anyone (even Andrew) to know the extent to which the brace will inhibit his mobility.

  27. Darius:

    I have always liked to have players on the second unit that were essentially starters in waiting. Aside from Odom, I do not see that type of player currently on the Lakers. I used to feel that Farmar was a sure fire starter in waiting but I am not so sure now.

    I’m not saying the Lakers don’t have a good second unit its just that my feeling is they are all role players with limited upside.

    I would like to see the Lakers add a 2nd unit player with starter potential.

    [edited for trade speculation]

    Paul

  28. Well Darius, now you know what it was like for whomever released a great book the week before 9-11.

    I’m up here in Portland and they are running the 92 Finals on a local station. Game one last night, game two tonight, and so on. I always remembered how the Bull’s D forced many a fast break and the way in which Jordan, Pippin and Ho Grant attacked the rim translated to the initial and then secondary break very well. There was something fastbreaky about how they ran the Triangle. Maybe not having dominant bigs effected the triple post and they executed it with a different philosophy. Like I said, it almost seemed like a fast break. Obviously we’d be wasting high % shots and the talents of our bigs if we played that way but such a lot of the Bull’s fast breaks came from lock down D leading to a player (even one as great as Drexler) having nowhere to go but to a turnover. This team seems more apt to manage that type of fastbreak rather then those we get from jumping lanes. Brown is strong and active. Artest… enough said. No SG is more physical then Kobe. Gasol is stronger now and can deal with most PFs and then Bynum will be interesting to see, more for his D then anything else. If he can stay on the floor and play active D then the Lakers are favorites for the title. If Drew can return to pre-injury form (the best bigman post game this side of Al Jefferson) then domination will be the calling card of this team.

  29. Wow, trade spec made it through moderation.

    Taken down in 3…2…1…

  30. Video of Hakeem working out with Thabeet, at the end we see Kobe practice a classic Olajuwon move:

    http://dimemag.com/2009/09/hakeem-olajuwon-works-out-kobe-bryant-hasheem-thabeet/

    I’ll be looking for that particular one next season, it’ll be interesting to see if Kobe can pull this off in a game with the defense being able to zone up on him more than it would have in the mid-90’s.

  31. Paul, it’s not realistic for a team in the salary cap era to have more than one starter-caliber player coming off the bench. The Lakers do in LO. Spurs with Manu. There may be one or two others, but not many. It’s a luxury, and it’s hard for the Lakers to draft those guys at the end of the first round. (Also, it depends on how you want to define starter, Walton could probably start on 2 or 3 NBA teams, but not sure I’d call him an NBA starter.)

  32. re: braces

    my experience with them, and from hearing drew is that it’s a protective brace that softens contact, and not something that deals with load. thinking stuff like bicycle kneepads and the like.

    re: 2nd unit

    I would love to see a grind-out 2nd unit, but i don’t think our defense is there for that style of play. none of our guys in the 2nd unit are anywhere near accomplished as a defender, and they do not have the length to compensate.

  33. hello guys, lost net connection due to severe storm and flooding here in the philippines…

    quite frankly, i’d leave postulating for when i see this group together and on the court.

    i do agree that to take this team over the top we need a 2nd starter-type player off the bench. cleveland got some of them. anyhow, as kurt said, can’t afford. we have lots of thinking before trade deadline if our 2nd unit sputters around.

    and to the one asking if farmar suddenly getting an ariza-type season is just all about the contract or what not, i can only hope that he has attitude more respectable than upside. commitment is hard to come by these days. just ask madoff victims.

    GO LAKERS!

  34. The versitility of our starting five, and LO will not make the second team horrible, compared to the beginning of last year. Its not like LA’s going to sub five bench players at one time to come in the game. There will potentially be at least two starting calibur players on the floor at all times, as long as there are no injuries. KB can play either the 2 or 3, Ron 2, 3, or 4, LO 1, 3, or 4, and Pau 4 or 5. The flexibilty will be key in allowing starters to be on the floor with lesser talent to offset the second units up and down play.

  35. Odom took up boxing to improve his footwork, goal: to be a better defensive player

    http://www.insidesocal.com/lakers/2009/09/odoms-new-workout-regime.html

    Good stuff coming from the guy who was pretty much our most consistent/best defender last year, with Kobe and Ariza (now Artest) up there as well. Add in the way Gasol defended Howard in the Finals, what we saw from Bynum pre-injury, and how completely unfazed we are by constantly getting torched by PGs…

    Alot to be excited about defensively. I just feel like we’re missing that one quick perimeter defender, and I’m hoping WOW or Farmar can stay with the guys that are too quick to ask Kobe to guard for heavy minutes

  36. Lakers Sign Thomas Kelati

    Sep 30, 2009 6:07 PM EST
    The Los Angeles Lakers have signed free agent guard Thomas Kelati, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released. Kelati, a 6-5 guard out of Washington State, spent last season playing for Unicaja in Spain where he averaged 11.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. Prior to his stint in Spain, Kelati played for BOT Turow Zgorzelec (Poland-DBL) for two seasons (2006-08) where he helped lead the team to consecutive Polish league finals appearances. As a member of Zorzelec, Kelati appeared in 77 games, averaging 15.43 points and 2.96 rebounds. Kelati started his professional career in Belgium in 2005, playing for Dexia Mons-Hainaut.

  37. Great post, though I hate to make the call and wonder if maybe we are all living too much in the past? Last season’s team was awesome in its adaptability, but was still laced with flaws. (Thank goodness that our margin for error was so huge!) Trying to dictate a style of play when inserting new/older personnel is a fool’s game, but I believe an earlier post said it best:

    The Lakers style of play will be dictated largely by the condition of our superstar, one Kobe Bryant.

    I think, more than ever, Kobe will look to effectively run the triangle as his ability to create off the dribble diminishes. It was pretty evident in the finals series that his much vaunted open court game has diminished somewhat. Look for him to set up on the initial post entry pass and receive in the high post and utilize his new Hakeem influenced post game.

    (BTW, can we get some video of the entire workout?!)

    With both first and second units running the triangle the way Tex envisioned, it will be an easier transition between units, no matter who was substituted or whenever Kobe was on court. Besides, its not like we are ever going to have to have a wholesale substitution of the first unit (unless we have a finals Game 4 again). I would like to see which starters stay with the second unit on the first substitution. I guess this will depend on opponent and foul situation, but say we are playing the Cavs. The projected starting line-ups and matchups would be:
    Bynum-Shaq, Gasol-Varejao, Lebron-Artest, Bryant-West, Fisher-Williams.

    With all things being equal, the Cavs will likely sub out Shaq for Big Z and West for Moon. Both will need rest due to age for the former and frustration of having to guard Kobe for the latter. This will give them a line-up of Big Z, Varejao, Lebron, West and Williams. We know where the points are coming from (mid range post ups, 3’s and James’ exploits into the key), so how do we take advantage? In this situation, our long and quick guys will take serious advantage of the boards and are still able to close out effectively on their shooters. With their spacing, the cavs will try and open the defense using Lebron. Our SSZ should take care of that, with either Kobe or Artest as the primary defender on Lebron.

    That was just one of many possible examples, but i think a more deliberate execution of the offense will mean not only a more concerted focus on how we can punish teams defensively, but will also preserve Kobe for many more years.

  38. j. d. hastings’s Agent September 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Tomorrow on NBA TV and online there will be footage from Lakers practice. Just cross you fingers that Rick Kamala won’t be talking all over it.

  39. JD, based on what he did to the Nuggets tonight, I expect there will be a painful amount of talking over.

  40. Darius,

    There is no doubt that the warp speed second unit the Lakers had at the beginning of last season will not reappear this season. Further, the loss of Trevor will undoubtedly remove a type of game changing drama from last season that none of us will ever forget.

    That doesn’t mean that this year’s Lakers can’t change pace whenever they need to–and it doesn’t mean that the Lakers will be condemned to a half court style of play. That’s what I’ve been fearing ever since the Lakers lost Trevor and signed Ron Ron.

    Hopefully, the main difference will be a type of shut down defense only occasionally seen in the Lakers last year. Such a defense often generates a different kind of transition basket off of rebounds or blocked shots–and forces other turnovers as well. Hopefully, a well run half court attack on offense will make it easier for the Lakers to transition to defense more successfully. It’s great to watch Derek Fisher erase and sometimes reverse breakaway points as he takes a charge, but hopefully not as frequently this year. Besides, he will not be on court as much as last year.

    As others have already suggested, the Lakers will have more different ways to change pace this year through combinations of players rather than through a first team and a bench team. It will be interesting to see who Phil puts together on these teams–and when he uses them.

  41. hey kids, this is the link for the lakers practice session. Supposed to start streaming at 1pm eastern time.

    http://www.nba.com/realtrainingcamp/

  42. Darius, Another thing to consider when we look at our 2nd unit slowing down as the season went on, is that when we were playing run and gun style, it was early in the season. We had a home heavy schedule , and were playing young teams that were working on their execution. We didn’t fastbreak as much in the playoffs or late season because we played better teams with better execution.

    38) Sasha insurance?

    42) I think our memories about Ariza as a game changing defensive player are too selective. Our minds hone in on the two steals against Denver in the WCF. We forget that Carmelo was punishing Trevor for 40+, and we had to put Kobe on him to slow him down. We won’t have this problem with Artest, and I’d rather have that than last-second inbound pass steals. We also focus on Trevor getting in Hedo’s grill in the finals and rattling him to help us close out game 5. Let’s not forget: Once a Sacramento Queen, always a Sacramento Queen: looks nice, but can’t deliver in the clutch. Shutting Turk down wasn’t that impressive in my mind.

    Bottom Line: I liked Trevor a lot, but he was a role player for us, not an impact player. So long as Ron knows his role, we won’t even notice Trevor was gone.

  43. Why is Reggie Miller there. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They showed video of Kobe v. Artest in the playoffs and Reggie called it from “a couple seasons ago”. I hope that Kobe bum rushes Reggie as soon as the final practice whistle blows and the fall into the stands.

  44. The NBA.com/TV people on the training camp thing are horrible. I just watched a couple minutes, but then the real world and work got in the way. Tonight I’ll have it on Tivo and put up a post with thoughts. Although every other thought might be “Reggie Miller is the worst analyst on the planet.”

  45. How can you say that, Kurt? Kamala just said that the Lakers are “real real deep at point guard.” I almost choked on my coffee.

    And Jon Barry is worse than reggie IMHO. They should assign both to a game together as a contest to see who’s worse.

  46. Anybody else watching this stream from practice? I thought there couldn’t have been anything more useless than the ‘mic-ed up’ in games but I was wrong – ‘mic-ed up’ during practice.

  47. More Kamala: “Every great movie ends the same way it begins.” Wait- what? Now I’m confused.

  48. JD, apparently you did not see the Godfather. Or Casablanca.

    Now, if Barfly were a great movie, that would qualify.

  49. http://tinypic.com/r/2a0dp9u/4

    Bynum’s knee brace. Not as bad and bulky as i thought

  50. It’s boring.

    I actually like Reggie.

  51. http://lakers.freedomblogging.com/2009/09/30/bryant-vs-artest-in-4-on-4-scrimmage-work/22659/

    “Artest had a nice moment when he drove the lane, got walled off by Bynum and kicked to the corner for Sasha Vujacic to hit a 3-pointer. A minute later, Artest jacked up an off-balance wing 3-pointer that sailed way over the basket without hitting anything.”

    oh boy

  52. Sasha cut his hair… I know some fans have been clamoring for this, saying he was too focused on the hair last year and it affected his shooting. Not sure I buy that, but whatever…

    Long hair, short hair or bald as Odom — the Lakers need The 2008-era Machine back on the floor.

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/lat-lakers-pictures-pg,0,4011641.photogallery

  53. The swagger should be there this year coming off a chip and the hunger to get the next one. The feeling that nobody can compete with you on any given night will make this team great. Thats the mindset I want and I am sure KB will make sure no one is slipping into a complacent state of mind.

    PickandRoll8, I agree that this year Kobe will do less one on one outside of the triangle offense, and more passing to teamates confident they can get the job done. He will have a veteran starting lineup, minus Drew, that have been through the playoffs and won the ultimate prize. His teamates have shown that they can hold it down in the toughest situation, so now its his time to show the world a different side of Kobe. He will never change everybodys mind about him and his so called selfish style of play. But they will see how his game has evolved into a more team oriented stlye and less me againgst the world.

  54. 54- so you’re saying you want sasha to carve a star into the back of his hair?

  55. Kamla and Miller are unremittingly awful.

  56. 55, I’d be willing to bet that Kobe will be just as ball-hoggish as he’s ever been. I don’t think just because his game has changed that his personality will as well. He will still try to take over any game that’s close late, and he will still jack up terrible shots every now and then, just like he did last year. And he definitely doesn’t want to deal with “is Kobe finally starting to lose his edge?” questions all year. Of course, we all wish he would change. But he won’t, because he’s Kobe.

  57. The label of cant win without( you know who) is finally gone. The only thing to prove is the fact that he can truly be a great teamate and actually seem like he cares about them. Why you think he did that Spike Lee thing last year? It didnt seem like he could really crack a joke, almost seemed staged at some points, but it showed that he could interact with his teamates on a regular basis. Made him look more personable and approachable than years in the past, instead of looking like a self absorbed ego maniac. He wants to come across as your next door neighbor who so happens can play a little ball.

    KB is an intelligent dude and he knows that the only way he will stay ahead of LeBron as the best player in the league is to keep winning those rings. He cant do it by himself, he has to have the right pieces to supplement his game and make him look great in the process.

  58. Actually, Zephid, not all of us wish Kobe would change. Many of us like him just the way he is. He is our leader — and a darn good one at that. He is our assassin — and a darn good one at that. He keeps the voltage high – and thank goodness for that on this team.

    I wish people would stop making statements about Kobe and assume we all share the same negative view of his personality.

    Outstanding champions will always rub some people the wrong way — that is the price you pay for an ego large enough to drive teams to difficult to reach heights.

  59. Well said Craig, people are entitled to their opinions and thats what makes these forums so interesting. I guess we all see what we want to see at times and people cant ever get away from that… but i know who’s hands I would want the ball in come the last few moments of a close game… people who say Kobe is still a ball hog just don’t recognise what an awesome team playmaker he has become.

    How many times did we see, during the Finals, Kobe catching the ball within 16 feet of the basket on the wing, waiting for the help defender to slide over and hit the open man for a pass? Not forgetting the pass that led to the assist on Fish’s game tying 3 and the assist to Fish for the overtime dagger? What about the beautiful drive past 4 defenders and the over the shoulder flip pass to a trailing Gasol? For Christ’s sake, people need to be open at least to the idea that a player can change!

    *ahem* thats my whinging done =)

  60. Darius, nice work on your post, especially the W-O-W videos. I am really looking forward to seeing Shannon play this year with a full training camp with the team to learn the Triangle to perfection. He is always an exciting player to watch, I hope he takes the starting PG spot by the end of the season.

    “Sometimes old things need to go away. That way, we have room for the new things that come into our lives.” – Randy K. Milholand

  61. Speaking to P Ami’s comment (#30) and drrayeye’s post (#42)…

    I agree that the team that we’ll see this upcoming season will still run and will not play a slow down game at all costs. We have smart players that will pick their spots and run where it makes sense. No team can be successful without getting some easy buckets and we have the talent to take advantage of those chances.

    Also, I agree that strong defense can fuel fast breaks, much like we saw with the 90’s Bulls and the early 2000’s Lakers. Stops lead to running opportunities and, hopefully, we’ll be getting plenty of stops. Speaking about those Bulls teams specifically, they had the type of team (from a personnel standpoint) that was built on running off of stops. In their first 3peat, they had Jordan and Pippen who were two of the best perimeter defenders in the league while also having Grant and some solid guards (Paxon, Armstrong) that were real pros and just knew how to play the game. All of that strength in the backcourt and wings will lead to a team that can run and control the pace in the manner that they see fit on any given possession. Our current roster is different than theirs (as you, P Ami describe) with the strength of our frontcourt and the shakiness of our guards outside of Kobe. But, as I said earlier, I do think that the overall talent and smarts of our team will lead to us making the most of all our opportunities – both in fast break, secondary break, and half court situations.

  62. Kamla and Reggie: Lakers can beat the 72 win record of 96 Bulls but will lose against the celdicks in the finals? wtf?!

    reggie also said “when the lakers TRADED for Ron artest” when talking with mitch. oh please reggie. you fail.

  63. To echo Craig and pickandroll, I’m quite fine with Kobe the way he is. You can’t accept the supreme confidence and competitiveness that makes him who is if you’re not going to accept a few (not as many as some people may think) bad shots here and there. For the most part he plays the game intelligently and adjusts his approach to suit the needs of the team.

    Besides, LeBron is a bigger ballhog and I’m sure Cleveland fans are satisfied with him so far…