Archives For October 2009

LAKERS
Remember, tonight is the Lakers Purple and Gold Bloggers Forum at the ESPN Zone at LALive. Starting at 6 p.m. we will be talking Lakers for an hour, then we will grab an adult beverage, some food and watch the Lakers/Nuggets Part Deux from San Diego.

In addition to myself, there will be both Brian and Andrew Kamenetzky from the LA Times Lakers Blog (you can decide for yourself which one is the cool one), Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld, Brett Pollakoff from FanHouse, Kam Pashai and Chris Manning (LD2K) from The Lakers Nation, Gary from Lakersnation.com, and Colin Ward-Henninger from The Examiner.

If you’re there, please come up and say hello, I’d love to meet some of you face and not just via email. So introduce yourself. Otherwise I’ll have to have a conversation with Brett, and everyone from FanHouse (Ziller especially) is warning me about that.

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I’ll admit, the word that Gasol may sit out the opener now has me a little uncomfortable, in that after weeks of everyone saying “this is nothing” it might be a little something. That said, better he misses some games now and gets fully healthy as opposed to rushing back, aggravating his hamstring and missing more time. This is an injury that can linger, better to be safe than sorry this early in the season.

Besides, if DJ Mbenga is going to get more blocks per game than the Birdman, I feel pretty good about our chances.

I’m done trying to guess what kind of rotations Phil Jackson is going to throw out there in the preseason, or for tonight. But what was good to see last night was how some rather, um, interesting lineups the Lakers still functioned well. The Lakers were getting the shots they wanted in the triangle and getting some good looks freelancing early in the clock. Also, the defensive rotations looked a little smoother. What I liked on defense was some of the trapping and aggressiveness was back, they were going for steals (as much as you’ll see that in preseason). The Lakers forced turnovers on 26.8% of Denver’s possessions, and you’ll win all the time if you do that. (To be fair, part of that was sloppy play by Denver.)

You also have to be happy with the bench play and the depth of this team. Some of the guys the Lakers just “throw out there” at the end of games would and could get a lot of minutes elsewhere, and have experience and comfort with each other few teams do that far down in the lineup.

The other thing to watch for, the Lakers new tradition when they score their first basket.

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Your Northwest Division Previews:

Denver Nuggets  – Denver Stiffs | The Nugg Doctor

Minnesota TimberwolvesCanis Hoopus | Empty the Bench | TWolvesBlog

Oklahoma City ThunderBlue Blitz | Daily Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers - Blazersedge | A Stern Warning | The Rip City Project | Blaze of Love | BustaBucket | Trail Post

Utah JazzSLC Dunk | True Blue Jazz

Bonus Links: See full schedule here

Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets Game 5 NBA Western Conference finals in Los Angeles
Tonight is the first game in a while when the Laker rotations could look normal, at least for the first 12 minutes or so. That’s because Pau Gasol and Luke Walton are back, along with Lamar Odom. And in case you were wondering, Andrew Bynum is expected to play despite the minor shoulder injury.

And this is a good team for that to happen against, one of the top teams in the West. Denver has athletes that will run with Bynum down the floor. They have a great point guard. They have the tools to challenge the Lakers in a way other teams this preseason have not. It’s time for a game with a little more intensity.

The thing that is going to bug me tonight (and tomorrow): Every time an analyst says something about Denver seeking revenge for the playoffs. I can assure you the Nuggets don’t see a preseason game that way. Nobody does.

What I want to see this game is how the Lakers do on interior defense with all the big guys back — Denver was fifth in the NBA last year in points scored per game in the paint. The Lakers were second. Even though this is preseason, it will be interesting who can control the paint, who can force the other team to shoot jumpers.

Other things I’m looking forward to seeing tonight are a few minutes of Melo/Artest; and Ty Lawson of Denver and which Lakers backup PG is matched with him (and how that defense goes). That is the kind of match up that, come the games that matter, determines who is the first PG off the bench.

Tonight’s game is on TNT (7:30 start), live from the Honda Center in Anaheim (where much of the crowd could be focused on the Angels plight). For Nugs info, check out Roundball Mining Company. This is the first night of a back-to-back against the Nugs (tomorrow the game is on ESPN, already the national broadcasts start).

Lakers Preseason Game #6: In the IE

Kurt —  October 20, 2009

Lakers vs. Warriors
Just after noon today, Stephen Jackson picked up his first foul in tonight’s game.

It’s a little odd meeting the same team for a third time in the preseason, but the Lakers and Warriors go at it tonight out in the Inland Empire. The good news is that Lamar Odom is expected back on the floor for this one, but likely no Gasol or Walton again.

When looking at the preseason what I’m looking for are trends, things that happen over a few games, that might give us a clue as to what we will see when it really matters. You can’t read anything into lineups because the Lakers are keeping guys out who could play and because now is the time to start Josh Powell against Blake Griffin and see what happens. I’m not even going to guess at some of the lineups we’ll see tonight.

One thing we have all been watching is the play of Ron Artest, seeing how he is acclimating to the team (fits and starts, as you’d expect). But there is a great interview by the Brothers K over at the LA Times Lakers Blog with Artest from after the game the other night that is a must read.

Before Sunday’s win over the Clippers, Ron Artest spoke at length with the media about his work with a sports psychologist, something he began last year while with the Rockets. Gaining control of his competitive nature is something with which Artest has long struggled, particularly early in his career. Managing losses, keeping his ego in check. That sort of thing.

These are the areas that those of us on the fence about Artest had concerns about, but that he is self-aware enough to seek help and that he has that outlet in Los Angeles makes me feel more confident. I’m not worried about his fit in the offense, that will come, my concern was if he would truly accept the role. All indications are that is happening. I still need to see it in more than just a couple preseason games. But things are looking good so far.

(As a side note, what Kamenetzky brothers did here is what I think bloggers need to do with access to the team — provide some background some depth to flesh out stories, to provide more context and insight. This was good work,)

Oops, Jackson just picked up a second foul.

The only remaining question for the Lakers is what to do with Tony Gaffney. Most years I would say that this is not a question — his people at IMG sold me on him at Summer League, and what we have seen in camp fits with what I came to expect. He has good athleticism, and he just hustles every time out there. He wants it. He’s still learning how to play at this level, still learning to shoot. He is a perfect candidate for an end-of-the-bench/time in the D-League roster spot that you do with projects.

But it all comes down to money. We Lakers fans can’t complain — Jerry Buss is shelling out this year to keep a title team together. He is paying a whopping tax bill. With that tax, keeping Gaffney means spending another $1 million plus. And please don’t do the “but Buss is just loaded he should do that” because that is not how you run your finances and it should not be his. This is his family’s lone business anymore. And if you think $1 million is nothing you must be a congressman.

I don’t think keeping Gaffney will happen. But it would be a pleasant surprise if it did.

LAKERS
Reminder that this Friday night at 6 p.m. at the ESPN Zone at LALive (right across from Staples Center) will be the Lakers bloggers forum, and it should be a lot of fun. We’ll spend an hour or so taking questions and asking Brian Kamenetzky where his cooler brother Andrew is. Besides Brian (he’s from the LA Times Lakers Blog) there will be Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld, Brett Pollakoff from FanHouse, Kam Pashai and video god Chris Manning from The Lakers Nation, Gary from Lakersnation.com, and Colin Ward-Henninger from The Examiner. Oh, and me.

After the Q&A we’ll have some food, a couple adult beverages and watch the Lakers/Nuggets game on the roughly 4,821 screens in ESPNZone LA Live. It’s a fun space (it was hopping after Finals games last year).

Should be a fun night, love to see you all there.

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As for some thoughts from the Lakers/Clippers match up, first thing is I love how active Bynum was on the offensive glass in the second half. One of the things I think we should expect from this team is a lot of offensive rebounds and second chance points. The Clippers (even without Marcus Camby) provide a stiff front line test and in the second half Bynum really answered that challenge.

We also expect the Lakers to be a better defensive team this year, but they were not against Eric Gordon and Baron Davis in the first quarter. This was not just about perimeter play but rotations inside, the Lakers just looked out of synch on defense (and the Clippers weren’t even running the pick-and-roll). It’s preseason, and as Phil Jackson said after the game right now practices matter more than games, so we shouldn’t make a big deal of it. But it’s worth watching.

I like Ammo’s shooting right now too, but as he said himself after the game if he can’t defend well he will not get the minutes. Not on this squad. And we have yet to be sold on his defense. The previously mentioned, very cool Andrew Kamenetzky has an interview with Ammo from after the game you should check out.

Finally, while this is a few days old, it is just too good not to post.

NBA 2009 - Lakers Beat Clippers 88-85
The easy thing to say is that tonight is a regular season game one preview. Except that it is not.

Sure, the Lakers and Clippers play to open the season in 10 days, but this game will look nothing like that game. Reason number one: No Pau, Odom or Luke again tonight. Don’t think this is anything serious, it’s just preseason precautions.

Those absences do make the “who do the Lakers match up on Blake Griffin?” debate interesting. My guess (and it is early in the day, so it is just that) is the Lakers go with the same starting five as last night — Fisher, Brown, Kobe, Artest and Bynum — which leads to an interesting Artest on Griffin matchup in the post. Artest is strong but he’s not the strongest guy in that matchup, however he has a lot more savvy and tricks than the Clippers youngster. Could be fun.

By the way, don’t read too much into the funky starting lineup — preseason games are a good time to experiment. Again, if this was the season a couple of those guys would have played, but no reason to risk anything. Still, it will be interesting to see if Brown feels more comfortable at the two in this game, he was not last night and it impacted everything he did (including shooting). And he needs to clean up the post entry passes, which were pretty bad at times.

Andrew Bynum is doing great at getting deep position and getting the ball in close to the basket so far this season. He can again tonight, although Kaman has the size to keep him out in a way that nobody from the Kings or Warriors could. What Bynum can do is run, beat Kaman down the floor to his spot. One other thought: As Bynum continues to have success, other teams will start to double and send other defenders, and he is going to have to make the smart pass out. A couple of times last night he took contested shots when there were wide open guys for the short-corner three (for points scored, the most efficient shot in basketball). If it is him taking a contested 8 footer or kicking out for a wide open corner three, the correct choice is clear. He has shown he can pass in the past, I trust we will see that again.

It’s hard to know what is really going on through coaches’ minds in the preseason. With the Clippers, are they really thinking about starting Rasual Butler over Al Thorton (as was done last night)? Is Dunleavy resting Thorton, or trying to send the often inefficient, poor defending player a message? With the Lakers, the questions are less grand as the roles are somewhat predefined in this veteran team. But we will keep watching tonight and looking for clues.

Again a 7:30 tip off on Fox Sports (flip between this game and the Dodgers win) and on 710 ESPN. As for bloggers, Kevin at Clipper Blog is one guy I have stole stuff from in the past, continue to do so, and he is just one of my favorite basketball reads. Also, Clipsnation is quite good and deserves the readership.

On a separate note, if you read one other NBA thing today, make it this story about Bill Walton going back to Portland.