Lakers/Clippers and other Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  October 29, 2009

Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers
During the bloggers forum last weekend at ESPN Zone LALive, Andrew Kamenetzky made what I thought was a very astute point: The Lakers are going to win 20 games or so this season just because they are that much more talented than the other team. The Lakers won’t play bad, they won’t play great, and they’ll get a win because they are just flat out better.

I think game one was the first of those 20. There were a lot of rough edges out there to polish (as JD Hastings put it), but the bottom line is the Lakers got a comfortable win on a night without their second best player (and the one that often makes the offense look pretty). For a first game, you take that. Especially on Ring Night, when a lot of teams look past the game. The Lakers got a professional win.

• As I’ve said, Ron Artest still seems to be thinking and not just reacting yet, he’s still figuring out how to use his aggressive play in the system. Darius expounds on that.

Ron needs to shoot a bit more when he drives the lane. In the 2nd half he penetrated to the middle a few of times and once committed a turnover by forcing a pass to the short corner when that guy was covered and the other time he tried a hand off to Bynum that didn’t do anyone any good at all as ‘Drew found himself with the ball and no where to go with it. Mind you, I’m not asking Ron to be more selfish, but I am asking him to read the play a bit better when he’s creating off the dribble. It’s like he’s trying too hard to conform to the offense. Even Ron mentioned it in his halftime interview “Phil wants me to play my normal aggressive game”. Phil’s right. Take the liberties that are presented to you, Ron. This offense is equal opportunity. When the opportunity presents itself to make a play for yourself, please take it. Believe me, I like moving the ball. I like seeing him as a decisive passer. But there are times when he’s 5 feet from the hoop and looking to pass. Our offense will be much better off if he’s shooting on some of those plays.

• Working with Kareem or no, Bynum is showing a healthy variety of moves in the post and a lot of quickness. If you listened to the ESPN NBA Podcast yesterday, you heard Celtics guy Ryen Russillo say the NBA should be very afraid if Bynum is moving like that. I think people are starting to see what we saw this preseason and what we have hoped for. Darius added one concern (Ryen had it as well):

I still wonder if Bynum can be as productive as he showed last night when Pau returns. I still think their numbers will come at the expense of each other as they have essentially become the same type of offensive player. Yes, Pau has more range on his jumpshot (out to 18 ft whereas ‘Drew is 15 ft and in) and Bynum is not as deft a passer as the big Spaniard. And Pau is more polished (though ‘Drew is growing by leaps and bounds in this area – how about those hard dribbles to the middle from the right block with the smooth left handed finishes?). But both primarily score on the block in post isolations or in attack situations from the elbow. Plus our high low sets work best when it’s Artest or Kobe flashing to the mid-post and looking for the lob to one of our bigs when the defense reacts to the flash – so I don’t expect to see a ton of high low work between Pau and Drew (though there will be some). My point is, while I’d love for both our bigs to be 20 point guys (they obviously both have the talent to do it), I think they’ll share the court too much and it will likely be Pau getting 18-20pts with Drew getting 13-15 points.

• I think we’ll see more high-low than Darius does, but when Pau comes back that is fewer shots for everyone else.

• Am I a bad person for gloating that Shaq was -25 last night.?

• I am very happy for Rambis with the opening-night win.

• Why NCIS Los Angeles? There is almost no Navy presence in Los Angeles. NCIS San Diego makes a lot of sense. LA… not so much.

• While the +/- numbers from the Clipper game were not great for the bench guys, remember that the run that put the game away to start the fourth quarter came with a mix of bench and starters — DJ was out for some of it, replaced by Bynum, they had the Farmar/Brown backcourt for a little bit of it. There were just a lot of different guys all contributing. That is how you win.

• We close with this:

to Lakers/Clippers and other Fast Break Thoughts

  1. Put me down for two of those Larry O’Brien snack trays.


  2. Kurt – keep it up. This is THE best running site dedicated to the Lakers and our rabid fanbase. I can’t thank you (and the other great posters) enough.


  3. Because people aren’t going to watch NCIS: Oceanside. 🙂


  4. The Lakers looked pretty good against the Clippers to open things up. They got a little sloppy in the middle of the game but the Clippers’ ineptitude really caught up with them down the stretch. Bynum looks like a BEAST so far.

    We’ll have to see how the big men mesh when Pau gets back in the mix. Also, everyone should check out some great Los Angeles Lakers memorabilia from my client, Steiner Sports.

    It will be interesting to see how the Lakers respond to some REAL competition as the schedule moves forward. I really don’t think there is any competition for them in the west this season. Boston looks pretty deep in the east though. Time to get some revenge from 2008.


  5. Kurt,

    NCIS producers probably decided that if sports fans can deal with the Los Angeles “Clippers”, then NCIS fans will accept LA too.

    Good job on NBA Today.

    I prefer Artest to feel his way out. We can afford to, and the team will be better for it as Ron learns his and his teammates comfort zones. Watching what he can do when he posts up makes me giddy. Easy buckets all day.

    I do agree with something something you said on the podcast about Bynum being a bit of a blackhole. Youngin’ likes his buckets, and sometimes it leads to forcing shots. Like when he gives up position in the post and shoots a turnaround from 12 ft. So, I hope he really gets comfy in Pau’s absence so that he will make the most of his opportunities when Pau gets back. He’s going to have to be ultra-efficient. I’d like to see him be among leaders the NBA in FG%. What I’m really waiting to see is how he plays against tree stump types like Perkins and Chuck Hayes. I thought he had a tendency to give up establishing position against guys like that, which led to uncomfortable shots like those quick turnarounds.


  6. I kind of had a good feeling inside of me with that +/- of Shaq, when I saw the stat. I was looking for that commercial yesterday, and low and behold here it is at FB&G today. Dallas will be a more difficult game to win Friday, and that should be a real battle, where I may have to worry about the outcome of it at some point in time.


  7. Well, I guess I’m a bad person too for enjoying Shaq’s -25.

    NCIS: Oxnard anyone?


  8. That spot is brilliant.

    The look on Odom’s face… the fact that Magic says nothing at all… how grave and serious Worthy seems to be at first.


    Bynum, if healthy, is going to be good. And, if he can remain healthy, in 2 or 3 seasons will be L.A.’s best player.

    I loved watching him run the floor.


  9. Yes you are a bad person for gloating that Shaq was minus 25 in +/- last night. As a lifelong Lakers fan I don’t get the hatred many Lakers fans have for him. The guy won us three Championships, and was clearly the best player one those teams… How soon we forget what he meant to our Lakers. Do I want the Cavs to win the Championship? HELL NO! But that has more to do with my hatred of LeBrick… Why can’t we, as Lakers fans root for Shaq to play well? (As long as, of course, it doesn’t come at the expense of our Lakers)


  10. I meant best player *on* those teams (not *one*)…


  11. @Jason – What, you’ve never been asked a rhetorical question before?


  12. Jason….
    because if shaq does play well and helps the cavs get to the finals, it may just come at the expense of our lakers.


  13. 10 – I’ve even heard loose and unfortunate speculation that the Lakers may not retire Shaq’s number when he hangs it up!

    That would be so very wrong.


  14. @Joel R: Yes, I have. This was my response to the very obvious Shaq-bashing I have seen since he was traded to Miami, rhetorical question or not…

    @Spaniardred: Not true. Shaq could get 30 & 20 every night and the Cavs still lose… My point is that the two ARE mutually exclusive. I can still have Shaq love and want the Cavs (and especially LeBron) to lose. And lose badly…


    • Jason, I don’t hate Shaq and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of Shaq bashing on this site. But he is a competitor now, and to root for him to do well and the Cavs to fail sounds fantasy basketball to me. Second, I want to see the people who thought this was the move that makes the Cavs title contenders see that Shaq 2009 is not Shaq 2001. Third, I read another article the other day about how Kobe ran Shaq off from the Lakers, a stance that I see as lazy media pulling for the guy they liked and ignoring facts. I like it when some holes are punctured in the Myth of Shaq. But that is very different from hating (to simplistic a term) or not wanting to see Shaq honored when he retires. I like Shaq, I just don’t want to see him do well anymore. (And the Cavs played much more fluid and successful basketball when he sat.)

      Here’s the side question: No doubt Shaq should have his number retired as a Laker. But, is it proper form to wait until Kobe steps away from the game, retire his number first, then do Shaq a few months later?


  15. It’s definitely proper form. I think Kobe’s number *has* to be retired first. He’s the one who will have been the lifelong Laker. More Chips in a Laker uni, and the records, etc. Plus, I think he will insist on it.

    By the time Kobe retires, he will be the greatest Laker ever*. No way the Lakers retire Shaq’s number first.

    *Before anyone makes a case for Magic, I say this with Magic being my all-time favorite player.


  16. I think the question on who’s number should retire first is up to how traditional Jerry Buss wants to be. For the Lakers, I believe the rule is that you must be in the Hall of Fame to have your number retired (with the exception of Magic Johnson). This, apparently, is one of the reasons why Michael Cooper’s jersey isn’t up in the rafters.

    If Jerry Buss keeps in line with this tradition and with Kobe retiring later than Shaq (hopefully), then Shaq will have to wait a long long time if he’s going to have his number retired after Kobe.


  17. Sorry, Jason, I couldn’t resist the joke (and I love that you answered both rhetorical questions, by the way)! If it helps, I actually agree with your general sentiment in theory, even if I’m sometimes shaky on the practice.

    I certainly do want to see Shaq’s number retired in LA, which is an honor he more than deserves. I’d like to think that by the time that day arrives, Kobe will be long past caring: now that the entire world knows Kobe can win a title without Shaq, that rivalry has to be on life support. If anything, I wonder if it’s Dr. Buss who will have to swallow his pride before there can be any “Shaq Appreciation Day” at Staples Center …


  18. 10. When Shaq was a Laker, if he had worked on his game, as much as he worked on his persona then he could have at least averaged 40 points or more a game. Its not that the championships arent appreciated, it was his work ethic, lack of conditioning, and always bad mouthing KB after he left town. Neither would have won a championship without the other, but to constantly brag that someone cant win without you really put a bad taste in my mouth concerning Diesel. He started to remind me of a rap artist who’s album is about to be released. Fued with anybody who is hot, to get your name out there so people will buy your album. Shaq used KB as a marketing tool to put himself on center stage. Thats why last year was so special to me considering that Shaq is a has been and Kobe is just taking off.


  19. @15: i think you mean to say Cavs losing and Shaq doing well are NOT mutually exclusive. ie they can both happen. Note this is quite different from saying Cavs winning and Shaq doing well are mutually exclusive.

    and 13’s statement is certainly true with the “may” qualifier.

    and yes. I loved the -25 +/-.


  20. Kurt: I’m not saying that it is likely that the Cavs will do poorly but Shaq play well. Yes, that would be Fantasy Basketball… I’m saying I wouldn’t mind, and would actually like Shaq to play well (with the stipulation that the Cavs still lose, of course). I wasn’t directing my comments to you, Kurt. We are ALL Lakers fans here (I hope), I’m just saying that I, as a Lakers fan continue to like Shaq and personally cannot understand why many of us don’t. This is not to say that I take his side in his “feud” with Kobe. THAT would be a simplistic view. I am a Lakers fan, first and foremost. Always have, always will… And it is that loyalty that keeps me from rooting against former Lakers “greats”, even if they play for another team (Again, as long is they aren’t playing the Lakers). It was the same when D-Fish went to GS and Utah, or Horry went to the Spurs. Those players gave me some of my best moments as a Lakers fan, and I cannot root for them to play poorly simply because the business of basketball made them switch uniforms. This, of course, does not apply to horrible players such as Kwame, Smush, etc…


  21. The fact that Shaq performs poorly since leaving LA speaks volumes about Kobe’s versatility as a basketball player. He is the only one able to adapt his game to Shaq’s (Wade is another. but unlike Kobe, he was only able to do it for one year). We will see if ESPN’s favorite son, James, can adapt his game to Shaq’s and make Cavs a better basketball team. So far, he is NOT doing too good, although the season is still young.


    • To be fair, the cast surrounding the Wade/Shaq tandem was not near what he had in LA. And LeBron doesn’t have the Shaq that Kobe did. The 2000 Shaq would make the Cavs the favorites, this one does not.

      Jason, I agree that there are a lot of Lakers fans with a hatred of Shaq I don’t understand. And I’m not sure the question was rhetorical as the answer is not obvious. At least to me.


  22. #21, yes, that is what I mean. I am doing several things at once and didn’t proofread before posting…

    @ Joel: It’s easy to call a question rhetorical after the fact…


  23. Why is ESPN posting Labron James picture all over their website when his team has lot two games??? If you didn’t understand English and accidentally stumbled onto their website, you would have thought that the Cavs won all the games.


  24. @ Kurt #16, well said. I was getting pent up ready to write a reply and then saw you said it better than I could have. Amen.


  25. I think the term hate is a very stong word to use when describing Shaq. Its not like you want to put sugar in the tank of his new Land Rover, because you found out he slept with your girlfriend, thats hatred. Its a dislike by competitive indifference only.


  26. Exactly… what bothered me about Shaq was he was over weight and out of shape. The Lakers could have won more championship if he was more professional. In my opinion Shaq should have been the best player to ever play in the NBA. If you look at highlights from his first few years in the NBA he was a 7-1 PG. He was so athletic and skilled. The guy went coast to coast in his very first game in the league. Its so sad he let himself go.


  27. To be perfectly frank, part of the Shaq-hating has to do with him playing alongside Lebron. We all know that if Shaq+Lebron get a title, plenty in the media will rehash the whole “Kobe forced Shaq to leave” argument and it will add fire to those Kobe haters that would argue that this would be more proof of how Kobe is arrogant/bad/ imperfect/not an heir to Michael, etc.

    So, in short, we know that if Shaq fails, Lebron does not have the supporting cast in place to do anything more than become some team’s playoff challenge and this will, at least for another season, put Kobe in a better team that will go deeper than the Cavs – which will add fire to the argument by some fans that Kobe is better than Lebron and is second only to Lebron. Yeah, its childish, but that’s the way things are when you eat, breath and bleed your team colors.


  28. Man, this will likely never happen, but I’d love to see Phil try a starting five of Fish, Kobe, Luke, Odom, and Gasol and a 2nd unit of Farmar/Brown, Sasha, Artest, Powell, and Bynum. That might not be our absolute best starting five, but it’d be pretty damn good and our bench would be ridiculous. Plus it’d give the bench guys a chance to play with a real post player in Bynum and a vet wing in Artest. Fun, right?

    Who cares when Shaq gets his jersey retired? Both guys deserve the honor and they’ll both get it. I don’t get why the order matters – especially given that Shaq will retire years in advance of Kobe.


  29. It’s simple, so I’ll keep it simple

    Shaq isn’t a Laker. Shaq disses(ed) Kobe. Kobe’s still a Laker. We are Lakers fans. We still root for Kobe.

    We want our Lakers to win. We need Kobe to be the one who finishes in top. So, we sometimes hate on Shaq. He left, he wanted more money and Kobe gone, he raps, he calls all of his current teammates better than Kobe, he deserves it.

    Now, let’s see Kobe win 5.


  30. I like Shaq- he is a character. I never have felt that I, as a fan, had to choose sides in the Kobe v Shaq feud.
    I still want Shaq to do well. In fact, I would like to see the Cavs reach the Finals and then get worked by our Lakers. Hopefully, that would put an end to all this.
    I will always support the Lakers. I am a Laker fan (period, full stop).


  31. 31,

    The players care about these things. Why do you think LeBron walks around with these (see links) when Kobe is winning his Finals MVP?


  32. When Shaq’s jersey goes into the rafters, I will stand and cheer and be grateful. He was a great Laker and deserves to be in the pantheon.

    Until that day, especially while he is in the league, I got no love whatsoever for Shaq, his game, or his teams.


  33. Kurt, in your nbc column you said Gasol won’t play on Friday. Is it definite?


  34. My main beef with Shaq is that he’s not liked by my main Laker, Kobe. End.

    I honestly wish him well, but that’s only if him doing well does NOT add to LeBronamania and all things anti-Kobe 😉

    Anyway, kinda worried about Gasol, but also thinking it may be a mixed blessing to have Bynum ‘develop’ in these early season games while Pau’s out. Also, it would give us a gear nobody is aware of (although that would include us as well) when teams start adjusting.


  35. I have followed the Kobe-Shaq thing since they came to the Lakers together.

    1) Shaq never wanted Kobe in the clique on the Lakers and Kobe didn’t mind being the talented, hard-working loner. That’s my first problem with Shaq’s ego.

    2) Shaq was content to rely on his physical talents and spent his time enjoying himself and preening for the media (that’s his personality). He had the physical gifts to be the unchallenged greatest player ever to play basketball, but was satisfied being merely the most dominant.

    3) Shaq simply could not deal with players on an equal level with himself – see Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade. While he did many team things, he never was truly able to put the team first – see #1. Now, in his sunset, sunset years he has no choice but to accept Lebron – the Cavaliers hope. For a comparison see how Kareem handled the ascension of Magic Johnson.

    4) Shaq required Phil to take his side against Kobe because his ego couldn’t handle being criticized. Thank goodness Kobe had a hide made of steel, or the team would have blown up well before it did – see Shaq/Dwyane Wade situation. This is something I also blame Phil for, but he really may have not had any choice.

    5) Shaq never took responsibility for his own part in the problems created around him.

    In summary, I can not really root for Shaq. Yes, he helped bring championships to the Lakers – no he didn’t do this himself – but he also contributed more than his fair share of problems that others had to deal with during those years. Perhaps he deserves his jersey to be retired, but he is certainly not in the class with Magic, Kareem, Jerry West, or Kobe.


  36. I think the problem some Laker fans, including myself, have with Shaq is that he has been unable to handle himself with grace and class from the time he left the Lakers. There’s a reason that he’s left every team he’s played for in his career under acrimonious circumstances and his obsession with Kobe is at odds with the storyline the fawning media created during and following his departure from Los Angeles. If he had handled the situation well there would be none of this “dislike” (hatred is too strong a word) and Laker fans would welcome him back with applause every time he came back to play a game at Staples and there would be no question of his jersey and legacy placed in the rafters next to Magic, Kareem, West, etc. As it is, I’ll always remember the great teams he and Kobe led in the early 2000s but his actions after he left will always stain my love for the Big Fella.


  37. I am not worried (yet) about Pau being out.

    This gives Bynum an opportunity to develop.

    Plus, I like resting Pau now to avoid aggravating a minor injury and missing him later in the season.

    I have faith in the real PJ.


  38. You know what, I’ll stand up and be counted in the group of people who dislike Shaq. Hate is a very strong word, but I definitely don’t like him. From his hypocracy to his ability to skate for so many childish and racist statements.

    But sticking to the sports side, I dislike what he stands for in sports. One of the things that irks me as a sports fan is seeing wasted potential. Shaq to me is a shining example.

    The year he took time off on company time was what put me over the edge. As fans we want to see our teams do well, set records, etc. We want to say we were there and be a part of that history and have it as a fabric of our lives. Here where our beloved Lakers had a chance to get four in a row, something that hadn’t ever been done except for our hated rivals the C’s. It was an opportunity that would possibly never come again. As a fan, I was reveling in that opportunity to say I lived through it. I was there!

    A true legend, all time HOF player and leader would have entered the off season motivated and understanding history. They would have worked hard instead of loafing. Shaq loafed.

    Shaq shows a lack of respect for the game, the history and himself. His talk about his place in history, etc is all a lot of smoke. This is why I dislike Shaq.


  39. Craig W. & J ,

    Well said.

    It reminds me off the end of last season when the Lakers had already wrapped up the West. Kobe was asked after a game if he would rest before the playoffs. He said that people pay their good, hard earned money to see him play, he’s going to play.

    It was earnest and there are many players who do not see it that way.

    People may want to call Kobe alot of things, but it is PROFESSIONAL that tops the list.


  40. Hello guys! Amen again to Scott, absolutely a class act of a blog here Kurt.

    @ Mavis — that starting 5 is good enough to take us to the higher ups of the playoffs seeding no doubt and that bench puts us over the top. But what I wouldn’t mind seeing and I don’t wanna push no buttons is if we keep artest at the starting wing and figure out a way to get an athletic scoring wing to pair with bynum off the bench. anyhow, that’s pipe dreaming and the league, let alone thinking fans may not want a too-studded laker team.

    Re: bynum, hmmm sometimes i think he gets a bit insecure with pau. the playoffs showed us he can force some ugly shots at times but i get he was recovering. i’d like to see some dec-jan 09 form in that case. pau fit with the groove. bynum has not done so completely with pau on the floor. it kind of concerns me now that bynum is getting this productive and all.

    for that, i’d love to see them both against dallas and take it to damp and dirk…which sounds kinda nice as a cleaning soap name.

    a nice problem nonetheless.

    i feel sad that shaq is now part of this -25 problem. that having flashbacks of 00-02 championship shaq. i give props to the guy, but he is more or less done.



  41. Kurt- NCIS Los Angeles is kind of a stretch, but they’re already filming CSI- JD’s Apartment for next season, so its all relative.

    I still have fond memories of shaq…. I just don’t want him to succeed anywhere else. Actually i was rooting for him his first year in Miami, maybe even in the finals, but at some point he called LA Fans phony (while living in Miami) and over time his antics have become too much.

    When the CLE PA guy announces Mo Williams, Steven Jackson, Jamario Moon, Verejao and Shaq (or Hickson if Shaq’s on his last year) as the starters for the first game of 2010, do you think he’ll try to sound excited or will he be weeping openly?


  42. As a Lakers fan I must say.. the early signs out of Boston are scary.


  43. One of the few good point Bill Simmons has made this season: If Shaq is such a great guy, how come he’s left four teams on bad terms?


  44. 46. One of the few times I agree with BS. Exactly. Class and respect is important.

    I like to echo the I don’t hate Shaq, but I do dislike him and his me me me attitude. I appreciate the championships he help the Lakers win but also dislike all the negative media attention and myth he’s created and contributed to in regards to the Lakers and Kobe. It’s hard to like the guy when he continually fuels the Kobe hate and create drama for my team. He both helped and hurt the franchise.

    And it’s not about him NOT being a Laker anymore so much as it is about respect and disrepect. I will support former Lakers who I like and feel are good people who are respectful to the franchise and the game (like Ariza and Ronny for instance).

    Is it bad if I hope that Shaq brings down the house of cards that is the LeCrab shack? I do feel a little bad but oh the fall of the 2 mighty mighty egos will be so so entertaining to watch. The NBA where DRAMA happens.


  45. Re NCIS:LA,
    I guess Simon and Simon is too tough an act to follow in San Diego!

    Re Retirement:
    What number is going to be retired for Kobe?


  46. I say they retire both of Kobe’s numbers on one jersey.


  47. @48,
    Case in point, was there anyone here who was not rooting for Fisher to do well with the Warriors or the Jazz during the time he spent with them?

    I will follow Ariza with the Rockets, and I really hope he does well with them. With the caveat that if he starts bad-mouthing the team that made it possible for him to get this contract with the Rockets, all bets are off.

    Shaq forgot that rule. Let’s hope Ariza doesn’t.


  48. I try not to think too much about Shaq. I am all about the Lakers and he’s not one of them. His arrogance and childish ways do not interest me and I’m happy he is a rival and not the devil inside you need to get along with to win.

    When Shaq-Kobe won the three-peat I wasn’t so much of a Lakers fan. Just your average Spanish European NBA fan, rooting for the Euros working hard back there. Now that Gasol is at the top of the Laker food chain, I have become an ardent fan. The last two years have been awesome. As a reinvented Laker fan, I have recovered my admiration of Magic Johnson and the showtime Lakers, which I felt for the first time back when I was 11 and NBA broadcasts started in Spanish TV (thanks to legendary announcer Ramón Trecet). The more I learn about the Los Angeles Lakers the more I realize how deep and intense this team’s tradition is and how big its contribution to basketball has been. A tradition that is ours now, too. Spanish fans are now tied to LAL forever. Vivan los Lakers.


  49. #46,

    I don’t know how many times i’m going to write this in different places, but Boston is DONE. Even though the Cavs are 0-2, I still think it is much more likely to see the Cavs or Magic in the finals this year. Why?

    I’ve used this line before at hoopshype, but it is a great one. Because getting old is like getting FAT. If you have a friend you see daily and he gains 50lbs over the course of 6 months, you notice he is gaining weight, but you don’t notice the extent until one day you are like, “holy shit man, you’re fat.” However, if the same friend gains 20lbs over the course of 2 months, but you only see him on day 1 and day 60, you notice the difference at first glance. The same can be said of the Celtics. They got old, and we didn’t notice.

    PER for Garnett over the past 6 years:

    29.4, 28.2, 26.8, 24.1, 25.3, 21.2

    The only year it actually went up is the year he was traded to the Celtics, it went from 24 to 25. But the trend here is OBVIOUS. Garnett is no where close to the player he once was. Add to this the fact that he has serious knee issues, and he just gets worse and worse.

    Now on to Pierce over the last 4 years:
    23.6, 21.7, 19.6, 17.7

    Do you see a similar trend? Paul Pierce is over the hill as well. The trend is all too obvious, and it spans 4 years.

    The Celtics are also missing 2 huge keys in James Posey and Leon Powe, not to mention the Lakers were missing 2 huge keys in 08 with Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum both out for the NBA finals due to injuries.

    The Celtics are no threat to the Lakers this year. That’s a guarantee.


  50. Ariza doesn’t have the ego needs Shaq does. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an ego, it’s just that his ego doesn’t rule him.


  51. Hey all, thought I’d pass along a pretty encouraging post over at Slam Online. While breakout isn’t the term I’d used to describe what Kobe may do this year, it is a good read and I see where he’s coming from. Kurt, keep up the awesome work. This site sets the blogging standard.


  52. Tim Donaghy’s new book has had excerpts published by deadspin.

    Hard to believe some of it isn’t true…


  53. Shaq used KB for publicity, when his game could no longer speak for him. Instead of hearing about how his game was quickly starting to go because of a poor work ethic through the years. All you heard about was how him and KB felt about each other, when you already knew the answer to the question. Shaq has always been an entertainer(rapper, actor) trapped in a basketball players body.


  54. The problem with Shaq as a Laker are twofold:

    1. You never bad mouth Jerry Buss in public the way Shaq did in the preseason. Shaq was still the highest paid player and you don’t say “Pay me!”;

    2. Show up in shape and if you don’t show up in shape, don’t get pissy with Kobe because Kobe is in the gym at 6 am working on his body and game. Let Kobe carry the team to the All Star game and then get the Big Lane Clogger rolling.

    For all the Kobe haters, when does Kobe take a night off? Plays hard all the time. You may not like him but one has to respect his commitment to the game and his craft.


  55. I’m a Laker fan. I’m not a Shaq fan or Kobe fan or Pau fan. I’m a Laker fan.
    When someone leaves the team, whether through their choosing or not, well, as far as I’m concerned they’re not a Laker anymore. I can like someone personally but if they’re not a Laker then they’re potentially part of a team that can take away a Laker crown and we can’t have any of that!
    And with that same thinking, I’ll defend any current Laker. Hell, I even stood up for Smush and Kwame during their short-lived careers because they were Lakers even when I knew that they weren’t the best options for us. But those were the cards that we were dealt and you either play or fold. And only fair-weather fans fold.
    I had to think about this during the dark times when Kobe was clamoring to leave. Sure I wanted him to stay but if he went to another team, that’s when my support stopped. That’s what happened with Ariza and, in reverse, with Pau. And, I realized that I was a fan of the Lakers as a team and not individual players.
    When they retire, that’s a different story. More power to them and I’ll cheer their retrospectives. Especially the Laker parts!


  56. I was here in 2004 when 99% of the people I knew, saw, listened to or watched, said Kobe drove Shaq out of town. I know how bad it was in those days. I knew that most people – and all the talking heads – didn’t want to hear both sides or to investigate further. This wasn’t a tough story to research – you could have started with Roland Lazenby’s book on the Lakers. People just wanted someone to blame and Kobe had been the previous target because the media wanted to get along with Shaq and most people had been piling on wide and deep.

    Now things are balancing out, but I remember how it was and how vicious most people were. This is one reason I am such a big Kobe supporter. Michael Jordan made lots of serious mistakes, but he never had to face the kind of pressure Kobe has gone through. Even Wilt didn’t get the kind of hate Kobe has – and Wilt got an awful lot of real hate in the 60’s.


  57. those excerpts from donaghy’s are quite shocking and believable at the same time.

    what is the solution, really though? create a post-game assignment table where you can adjust for each wrong call?



  58. Well, this has been an interesting thread, to say the least. Maybe way up at 7, I should never have brought up my thoughts about Shaq and should have mentioned Kurt’s bullet item about Rambis instead? Not that this Shaq talk would have not taken over anyway…


  59. Denver just went up to Portland and took them out, after getting in late this morning (delayed by snow in Denver) and playing the night before against Utah. Melo is playing like an MVP candidate, their bigs are playing D, and they’re threatening to crash the “top five in the NBA” party from which they’ve been excluded by all the pundits. I’d sure like to see them have to duke it out with the Spurs in the second round. We need to get home court.


  60. Since Shaq will retire before Kobe, the Lakers should retire Kobe’s #8 jersey, followed by Shaq’s. When Kobe’s playing days are over, then you put #24 on the rafters.


  61. Kobe wins 6 rings… 3 finals MVPs… and will be the 1st ever player to have 2 jerseys retired in Staples.

    I understand Cap (KAJ) won more MVPs and won more rings but its his fault he didn’t change his jersey no. LOL.


  62. busterjones,

    I read it. Nothing we don’t already know.

    That star treatment, tick tacky calls, or fouls on the wrong guy is something we all know. Even we don’t admit it, we are trained to think that way.

    Ultimately, this is good for the NBA.

    1.) Donaghy pretty much admitted that the league didn’t openly “fix” games. It was “Subtle messages.” Who doesn’t think this anyway.

    2.) The NBA will have no choice but to clean up officiating.

    Whether we know it or not, we are all used to this. It’s ingrained in basketball fans or players. You deal with make up calls at every level. High school, rec leagues, NCAA, and the NBA.

    As far as refs controlling the flow of the game, we know this too. Who here doesn’t know that when in Utah, the Jazz will get the early whistle, then it tends to even out in the 2nd half? Or hoping the series starts in LA for “home court advantage.” I have no problem with 50/50 calls going to the home team. It’s part of the game.

    Donaghy really didn’t tell us anything we don’t know. Some of you think it may change the way you view the game, but like the change of the “traveling” rule, it really shouldn’t change anything.

    How many people here play(ed) basketball? How many times have you felt your team isn’t getting a fair whistle, but instead of whining, you tell your teammates to play through it and adjust to the whistle? The best team will, and that’s why they are better. That is what makes the difference between a good amateur player, and a good professional. Adjustments. Why do you think Kobe is as great as he is? Because when the money is on the line, he can score with defenders draped all over him, he can hit big shots in hostile environments, and make his free throws. The Lakers were the best road team last year because they could handle, good or bad, whatever the refs gave them and adjust.

    Finally, think about the difference between our 2008 Lakers and our Champion 2009 Lakers. What was the difference? Experience and mental toughness. Our talent level was he same, except a year later Pau wasn’t looking for whistles he normally gets, he played through them, LO wasn’t looking for whistles, he expected them not to come. They made adjustments. Bynum helped defend Dwight when he realized he was going to get whistled and to just play through it.

    If I had any problem with what Donaghy wrote, it’s the refs betting on the 1st foul or tech. We knew the other stuff.


  63. HA! YES! Meron and Warren know what’s up. But I’ll add a bit more fantasy to that. Kobe wins 7 rings, 4 finals mvp’s (ok maybe 3 and bynum 1). But not only that, after not winning a championship with the cavs Shaq gets signed by the Lakers for the vet’s minimum and wins his last one before retiring as Kobe’s sidekick! OH YES!

    And Jason (#15), I still disagree with that. But there’s not point in continuing cuz we’ll both just keep disagreeing.


  64. Wondahbap – very well said re: the refs. I’m so tired of hearing about the Lakers’ win against the Kings in 2002 being “tainted”. Game 6 may have had some dubious calls, but game 5 (which Sacramento won) turned on a horrible out-of-bounds call in the final seconds that gave the Kings the ball for the winning shot, and it wasn’t the refs who made Sacramento shoot 16-for-30 from the free throw line in an OT loss in their own building in game 7.

    More importantly, championship teams play through whatever BS the refs may be serving up. I can’t think of a better example than game 4 of last year’s Finals. The free throws were something like 17-0 in favor of Orlando in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers just muscled through all of that to take the game, and effectively, the series.


  65. wondahbap and jodial,
    About the refs… I could not agree more! Real champions don’t need the help of biased refs to win. Which is good since we didn’t get much of it. 😀

    The flip side of it is that since we don’t need them to win, we can’t blame them when we lose either. If we lose, it’s either because we didn’t play well or hard enough, or we made mistakes, or because the other team simply is better. Not because we didn’t get the calls we wanted.


  66. so the Raptors beat the Cavs last night, now they’re 0-2…wonder how long before the press comes out blasting the Shaq acquisition?


  67. Chris H,

    It started already.


  68. RE the Cavs: I think the media would be off base in scapegoating Shaq. The real issue is missing Delonte West and coaching.

    West is a vital piece to that team. Yes he’s a role player. But, he’s a combo guard that can takeover ball handling responsibilities (making him a defacto backup PG while also freeing up Mo Williams to focus more on just scoring) and he’s the only other player besides Lebron and Williams that can create offense for himself and others. And when you also consider that SG and backup PG have been the Cav’s weakest positions over the past few seasons, West becomes that much more important.

    As for the coaching – where is this offense going? Before the season started I chuckled when Shaq said “I’m having trouble getting used to this offense; It’s different than any of the offenses I’ve played in my entire career. I’ve played in the same system for 17 years and this one is different”. I laughed because I related this to Shaq hinting at how he’s always been a major focal point of the offense, i.e. “get the ball to Shaq”. I also laughed because Shaq has had about 7 different coaches in his career and played in a bunch of different systems so how could they all be the same? Anyways, now I realize that Shaq’s statement has merit. There is no movement in Mike Brown’s offense. Shaq is a great passer out of the post, but there aren’t any cutters when he’s making catches now (with the Cavs). The Cav’s offense is still just an “Isolate Lebron” offense or a “get Lebron the ball and run P&R” offense and that is not good enough in this league. It may get Lebron his numbers, but it doesn’t make you efficient nor will it equate to a lot of winning. Not to mention that there were stories before the season about Lebron working on his post game and the Cav’s wanting to get Lebron the ball more at the elbows. What happened to that? Basically, Mike Brown needs to do better. Lebron can carry this team to a high win total all on his own. But the better defensive teams and then playoff opponents in May are going to shut that stuff down. Brown needs to get some movement and creativity into his offense or the Cavs aren’t really going to be the dominant team that they have the potential to be.


  69. Re: Boston, I do think they may try to too hard to play at a break-neck pace during the regular season to sort of validate the fact that they “remain” the true NBA champs and that last year’s title was a fluke.

    I think they will overwork their Big 3, Rondo will start to bicker over his role since he got a taste of being the man during the playoffs. KG will try to prove that he’s back and play his heart out, wearing himself out for the playoffs.

    I’m pleased that the Lakers are resting Gasol, understanding that the season is a marathon and to take regular season games in stride. I just think Boston’s Achilles heel will be their incessant need to feel that they are the champs and to re-establish their place on top of the perch. That is why they are coming out so strong right now.


  70. Also, I don’t agree with the “demise of Boston” stuff. Yes, they are old(er). Yes, I think several of their key contributors are in decline. Yes, I still question their coaching. All that said, they are a veteran team; a championship team. They added two key players in Wallace and Daniels that I think are really going to help them. If (big, big if) KG can stay healthy, they have the horses to compete with anyone, especially us and Orlando. Would we be favored? Would the Magic? Yes, likely. But they have the ingredients of a championship caliber team, they have the mental toughness needed, they play the level of defense needed, and they will not go down without a real fight. So much of winning comes down to things that can’t be measured in a boxscore and can’t be accounted for just by looking at a team at face value. A bounce here or there, a missed FT or two, dealing with pressure, a split second decision by a player or a ref…these are things that can affect the outcome of a game. Boston will have an impact in the race for the title. Their window is closing, but it’s not closed.


    • RE: the Cavs and Shaq. I agree that issue number one in Cleveland is the coaching. But to me, getting Shaq just did not address what cost them in the playoffs. He cannot defend the pick and roll, he is not a good outside shooter. Maybe Moon can help change the later problem, but I agree they really do miss West. Still, in a seven game series, I can see how you attack the Cavs and slow them at both ends of the floor, and they don’t seem able to adjust or adapt and take the next step. How do they advance out of the east when Boston showed it can exploit their defense and you know Orlando can with guys like Nelson and even Carter?


  71. Kurt,
    I agree with that wholeheartedly. Shaq didn’t address their overall weakness in defending the P&R. I think they got Shaq because Varejao and Big Z were getting pushed underneath the basket and dunked on by Howard so they thought they needed a big body that wouldn’t be moved in that manner. But, Shaq has so many other defensive limitations – he’s like buying a Hummer because your compact car got crushed in a car accident…yeah you’re not likely to get banged up like that the next time but you’re also getting 8 MPG, it’s not exactly a tradeoff without consequences.

    I agree with KD on Shaq though – the Cavs gave up nothing to get him so why not just do it? In the end, what they really need is for Varejao to get in the weight room so he can hold up in post defense better and have him stop looking to flop everytime someone takes it to his chest. Because if Varejao could defend the stronger 5’s in the game, the Cavs could slide Lebron up to play the 4 and they’d be a lot better off. That way they could have a good defensive unit and also guys who could space the floor surrounding Lebron. They could also run P&R where Lebron is the screener and set up all kinds of mismatches that favor their team. But, then we’re right back to coaching.


  72. I think Cleveland’s FO saw what the Lakers did to Dwight, and subsequently the rest of the Magic offense, and decided that Shaq could limit Dwight as well. Then they probably figured Shaq is a mismatch for Perkins against Boston.

    The problem is that I think Dwight is too quick for 2009 Shaq and will put him in foul trouble. Then it’s back to 2009 ECF. Boston? too many advantages at other positions.


  73. Shaq isn’t the problem with the Cavs offense, but Shaq takes heat for his offense AND the coach is being criticized, Shaq will throw Brown under the bus to take the heat off himself. That’s his track record.


  74. 76) Darius,
    “the Cavs gave up nothing to get him so why not just do it?”

    They gave up defense while he is on the floor. i think this may be a similar situation to the Lakers bringing in Gary Payton. Addressing a weakness on paper (in this case adding the inside presence, points, and rebounds Shaq brings) without giving enough consideration to how other areas will be affected, doesn’t always work.


  75. Does anyone else find it comical when Shaq hesitantly runs out to the left arc of the 3 pt line to set the screen for LeBron?

    His body language says:

    “Oh yeah, I have to set this stupid screen. This is so stupid having me, a 7’2″ 375 lbs. Center, set a pick 25 ft. away from the basket. What happened to posting up, and passing to a cutter?”

    I know everything is blamed on Mike Brown, but you cannot tell me there is no way the offense is allowed to stay the same unless LBJ *wants* it.


  76. the problem w/shaq is chemistry. he still eats a ton of space.. clogs the lane.. and can be a force on the block..

    it only breaks down when the losses start piling up.. instead of saying things like “we need to improve.. work together.. etc” he says “feed the big dog”..

    like cancer.


  77. I think Cleveland’s FO saw what the Lakers did to Dwight, and subsequently the rest of the Magic offense, and decided that Shaq could limit Dwight as well.

    Wait, now I’m confused. :S I thought that what we did to Dwight Howard was a combination of Pau and Andrew in the paint, deadly passing and ball movement, and having other effective scoring options than Pau and Andrew on the team?

    I’ve no doubt that Shaq in his prime was an unstoppable monster similar to what LeBron is now, but he is not in his prime anymore, and I don’t think anyone would realistically expect that he’ll be able to keep up with either Perkins or Howard the way Andrew was able to. If nothing else, because when Andrew couldn’t, Pau or Lamar stepped in and helped him, and the Cavs have no one like Pau or Lamar.

    Assuming all you guys who know a lot more about basketball than I do are right — and there’s no reason to doubt that you are — then the Cav’s management watched the Lakers beat the Magic without really understanding what they saw. Yeah, we had an explosive dominant big guy that could handle Dwight Howard, but that’s not the only piece they’re missing. Shaq is not going to help fixing their issues on defense, their role players are not as good as ours, and I doubt their playbook is more than five pages thick.

    It’s a bit like thinking that in order to learn how to punch like Muhammad Ali, all you have to do is build your arm strength, and ignoring the fact that you also need to work on your shoulders and core muscles, build your leg strength and increase your speed, not to mention technique.

    Adding Shaq to the team sounds like a step in the right direction for the Cavs, but if they stop there, I don’t think it will make a big difference when the play-offs come around. Not with Boston desperate to prove themselves and the Magic bitter over how close they came to the trophy, only to see someone else claim it and celebrate.


  78. #79. exhelodrvr,
    Yes, the Cavs will have trouble in certain aspects of defense (primarily P&R) when Shaq is in the game. However, when I said the Cav’s gave up nothing, I was really referencing the players that they gave up in the trade – Ben Wallace and Pavlovic. And, since Shaq is essentially using the minutes that Wallace was playing, I still think that this is an upgrade – even defensively. Wallace is no longer a good defender. Not in P&R situations (where he gambles too much and stays with his hedge for too long – compromising rotations and rebounding) nor in isolation post up matchups where he’s not stout and his deteriorated athleticism means he can’t challenge shots in the same fashion he used too.

    I do agree that acquisitions that address problems can’t be evaluated on paper. What happens on the court is all that matters and Shaq is contributing his fair share to this situation not working out. He’ll need to do better as will the other Cavs if they are to meet their goals and live up to expectations. However, as I said earlier, I think they’re better off in all facets of the game with Shaq replacing Wallace. But they’d have been much better off with a player like Rasheed Wallace over either of those two as he’s the type of guy that can hold up on defense in the post and effectively hedge and recover in the P&R game (Shaq can only do one of those things and Wallace can’t do either).


  79. Kurt and Darius,
    Its fun to talk about Lebron, Shaq, and the Celtics. But it won’t matter much in June, as I said before the season started, the Magic are a very close 2nd talent wise to the Lakers. That is the team we should be worried about.

    Orlando has 4 all star quality players in the starting lineup like the Lakers. There is one X factor for each team. For Los Angeles its the all star type player they have coming off the bench in Lamar Odom. For the Magic its the all star PG they no longer have on the bench… J Nelson. The only weakness as we all know the Lakers have is at the PG spot and Orlando to go along with great talent all over they’re roster has the offensive talent at PG to exploit that major weakness.

    The Celtics have nice talent but Rondo (who I love) isn’t the offensive threat you need at PG to torch the Lakers enough to offset the Lakers advantage at the other positions.

    The Spurs are too small in the frontcourt to even make it a truly competitive series against Los Angeles. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Spurs made a move during the year to acquire a starting Center.

    The Cavs just aren’t in the same league as the “big 4” from a talent standpoint to compete for a championship as much as I love Lebron James. And I do think he is the best player in the NBA by a relatively wide margin.


  80. Honestly, I am pretty upset with Shaq right now. I had an idea for a tv show where I go from NBA contender to NBA contender and ruin their chances at a title… but Shaq stole it from me. Didn’t even give me an executive producer’s credit!


  81. Darius,

    I get what you’re saying about not giving up a lot. In the case of any other player besides Shaq, I’d agree that it was worth a shot for what they gave up.

    But Cle had to realize that Shaq is a special case. He’s not a guy that you can bring in, see how he fits and decide to just sit him down on the bench. Shaq is going to command and want the focus. Shaq would be great for Cle if he was willing to come off the bench. He’d dominate most 2nd unit centers, he could try to slow Dwight down for spot minutes, ala a hobbled Bynum and with limited minutes not be as big of a defensive liability in the other areas.

    But you can’t do that with Shaq. He’s not that type of personality. He’s a player that requires a remaking of a team’s offensive and defensive philosophy. Good GM’s/coaches should recognize that. It’s not fantasy basketball of just plugging players in.

    I also think Clev should have stood pat. Really they would have beaten Orl if Mo and others didn’t have such horrendous shooting series. If those guys shot even 40%, they win that series. Dwight was good, but not overwhelming. Clev plays really good defense. I think they could have done something similar to what Lakers did. Doubles from different angles and dig at the ball if he puts it down.

    Flat out Clev FO panicked. The spectre of Bron fleeing and lack of mental fortitude to believe in the team and it’s philosophy. Arguably, they could have stood pat and used the Wallace trade to get another proven vet shooter and/or decent mobile non scoring big man to help with the D. That would have addressed the problems they would have had with Orlando without sacrificing the matchup weaknesses that Boston has now exposed.

    As for Boston, I agree that they are a vet team and also they have quality depth. They are a very dangerous team if healthy even if they are older.

    Still it’s early in the season. I want to see how Lakers, Boston, SA and Orlando all matchup and play against each other. It’s all speculative right now. But I think those four teams are so close to each other. Some unlucky breaks, that ball bouncing wrong, hesitation, etc, that could make the difference in a win or loss. But at least in a regular season game you can see how the matchups work and extrapolate to a 7 game series where you hope the bounces equal out.


  82. Mimsy,

    You are right. We agree. Shaq can’t do what Pau and Drew did to Dwight. We’re all scratching our heads too. That’s just what I think Cleveland *thought* could help them after they had the butts handed to them.


  83. Darius,
    “However, when I said the Cav’s gave up nothing, I was really referencing the players that they gave up in the trade ”

    I know that’s what you meant; but the problem is that that is that the CAVs thought, too.

    They didn’t consider what they would give up on the floor by playing Shaq. It’s very similar to the Lakers. Sometimes management treats the rosters like it was a fantasy league, where they will get to use the stats from the previous season. And if it doesn’t work out very well, I seriously doubt that they (the Cavs) will be willing to stop playing Shaq. it would be too much of a black eye for them.