Archives For October 2009

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, 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.


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.

Lakers vs. Bobcats
What is the hardest part of building a championship caliber team? Getting the superstar. There are only a handful of true stars who can take over a game in this league (the Lakers are lucky here having not only Kobe but also Gasol and other guys who can do it for a game or even a week).

That is sort of where the Bobcats are now: They have a nice collection of complimentary players, but lack THE MAN. I like Gerald Wallace, he can be a good number two guy on a quality team. Tyson Chandler is now in Charlotte and with Larry Brown as coach that has the makings of a potentially good defensive team (they were seventh last season in defensive efficiency, almost even with the Lakers, and Chandler will improve that). They will stay in games this season, but when the offense stalls and there is 6 seconds left on the clock, who do they go to? Worse yet, tight game with two minutes left, who takes over for them and leads them? They need that guy, but getting that guy is very, very hard.

To learn more about Charlotte, check out Queen City Hoops, which is a fantastic blog on the team. (We are really spoiled as Lakers fans with the quantity and — in a number of places — quality of content about out team. If I were a hardcore hoops fan and a Bobcats fan, I’d be living on Queen City Hoops because there just aren’t a lot of places to get great content for this team.)

As for the Lakers tonight, I just want to see Bynum continue to grow, I want to see Artest working to figure it out and feel comfortable, I want to see some good play out of the bench guys. Also, I’d like to see a little more movement and offensive flow from the starters against a better defensive test.

The Lakers game starts at 7:30 and here in LA you can catch it on Fox Sports, on the radio on 710 ESPN. Remember this is part of the Staples Shootout, so the Lakers will play tomorrow against either the Clippers or Utah.


Now, the Central Division Preview:

Chicago Bulls | Give Me The Rock

Cleveland Cavaliers

Fear The Sword | WaitingForNextYear | Cavalier Attitude

Detroit Pistons

Motown String Music  | Empty the Bench | Pistons Nation |

Indiana Pacers

Indy Cornrows

Milwaukee Bucks


Bonus Links:

See full schedule here

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  October 16, 2009

Thoughts from last night’s Laker game and whatever else crosses my mind.

• The word on Lamar Odom is that it was nothing serious and he is day-to-day (but aren’t we all). For those that didn’t see, he was kicked in the shin by Jon Brockman in a rebound scrum under the basket. Just a shin bruise (not on the bone), but because it was preseason he sat.

• The Vegas game was clunky like you expect a preseason game to be. That said, the Lakers had a plan for a night — post up. Lots of Bynum on the block early, and if not him Kobe.

• With the ball in the post for essentially clear outs, and without Gasol getting the ball in the high post, the Lakers offense looked a little stagnant early — people clear out for Bynum on the low block so he can work, same for Kobe when he posts. but when Gasol gets the ball in the high post people move and cut because they know he’ll get them the ball.

• That changed when Mbenga came in with the second unit (nobody clears out for him), that unit with Brown and Sasha was cutting and moving. Not coincidentally, that is when the Lakers pulled away. By the way, so far this season Sasha seems back — he needs to start doing that in games that matter for me to give big props, but it’s a good sign.

• You have to love Bynum’s explosiveness and effort. Granted, the Kings don’t really have anyone who can really handle him on the block, but he was aggressive and took advantage of that. As it should be.

• Alex V. was right in the comments — right now, this season of Top Chef feels like preseason basketball. We know who the four finalists should be (my man Kevin, Jen and the two brothers) and it’s just a matter of waiting for the others to fall by the wayside until the real games start.

• Not to go all Joel Meyers, but when you haven’t seen them for a while, you forget what a long team the Lakers are, and how much trouble that causes other team’s shooters. Also, they should be a great rebounding team because of it. (I really should have worked harder to find a way to put the word “upside” in that bullet just to make it the ultimate cliché.)

• Artest seems often like he’s thinking, not just reacting in the offense. That will change. (And the handful of times he was in a position to just react, he made good plays. He is physically so strong down low going for boards.)

• Stephen Jackson got called for two fouls guarding Kobe, and he wasn’t even in the building this time.

• They found the Balloon Boy. Can we stop talking about him now? CNN, I’m looking at you.

• The regular refs need to be back for the regular games. Figure it out. By the way, the amazing Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus breaks down the numbers on the new refs, and it’s a good read.

• Ugh, Dodgers. 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position doesn’t cut it. Need to clean that up today.

• Really wish I could have made Blogs With Balls in Vegas. Stupid “real world” got in the way of the fun.

Las Vegas Strip Business as Usual
Preseason games have about as much meaning as a Pauly Shore movie. If you’re lucky it keeps you entertained for a couple hours, but there’s not much to think about afterwards.

But there are a couple of notes in the wake of the Lakers last preseason game — the ugly loss at the Forum to Golden State — that are encouraging.

One is that after that performance they held a team meeting to talk about it and make sure they don’t lay an egg like that again. For a preseason game. Also, every report coming out of practices is that things are very competitive — the guys are banging and working, not just going through the motions. Kobe and Artest have commented on this.

These are good signs — complacency may be the Lakers biggest weakness this year. This team has a tendency to coast, and winning a title could make that worse. But it appears that the team — with its veterans leading the way — is not going to allow that to happen. There is still a hunger and it is evident in preseason. This in no way means we should suddenly expect a Lakers squad focused every minute of every night, but it may mean that the team is not going to get too fat and happy.

As for tonight, it doesn’t matter who owns a hotel in town this should pretty much be a home crowd for the Lakers against the Kings. Remember, they played a 1992 playoff game at the Thomas & Mack (moved due to the riots) and you basically get all the Lakers home games televised there. Vegas is a Lakers town.

By the way, no Gasol or Walton expected to play tonight, although both are minor injuries that would not have kept them out of a regular season game. No reason to worry. Remember, 7 p.m. start, Chanel 9 here in LA and radio 710 ESPN here.

You can toggle between this and the Dodgers winning game one.


On a separate note, rather than open that Netflix envelope this weekend, try watching the Sonicsgate movie online. The fans in that city got screwed — by the team owners (old and new) and the politicians there to represent them. The fans were virtually powerless, and that was sad.

Lakers Chat Replay

Kurt —  October 14, 2009

Here is the Lakers chat from ESPN today that featured J.A. Adande and myself. Enjoy.

ESPN Chat, Southwest Previews, More

Kurt —  October 13, 2009

la lakers media day9/29/2009
Tomorrow at high noon Pacific (that’s 3 in important East Coast cities like Portsmouth, NH) I will be doing a live chat on ESPN along with J.A. Adande (okay, he’s kind of the featured guy) taking questions on all things Lakers. It will go at least 30 minutes, maybe more, just follow the link above and send in your questions.

If you can’t join the chat live, because you have a job or a life or some such annoying thing, I’ll have the transcript up here later in the day.


For those of you who like previews, here are some blogger previews for the Southwest division. You know, the one where the Mavs are going to win 73 games.

Dallas Mavericks

Mavs Moneyball | The Two Man Game | NBA Mate

Houston Rockets

The Dream Shake | Ballerblogger

Memphis Grizzlies

3 Shades of Blue

New Orleans Hornets

At The Hive | Hornets Hype

San Antonio Spurs

Pounding The Rock | Project Spurs

Bonus Links

See full schedule here |


Finally, Wednesday is John Wooden’s 99th birthday. If you want to send the best basketball coach of all time a birthday wish, follow this link, then tell your friends.

Mad Men: The Lakers Preview

Kurt —  October 12, 2009

In the first of several Lakers previews coming to this site, we pay homage to Mad Men (because it is the best thing on television). Sure, this post is a bit Simmonsesque, but if you are going to steal, steal from people who do things with a flair.

“Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.”
—Don Draper

Sometimes lost in the excitement over a new season and new challenges we forget one simple thing — the Lakers won the NBA championship last year. When you have a contending team, you don’t make a lot of changes. And the Lakers didn’t. Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Bynum, Fisher, almost everyone is back.

Of course, the one change they did make turned some heads — basically a trade of Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza. This is where Don Draper is right — this trade makes the Lakers a different team, but that is not good or bad. They get a better wing defender against strong threes, a more consistent three point guy, someone with a polished midrange and post game (something he has already started to display in the preseason), but they give up some athleticism and versatility. None of that alone is necessarily good or bad, it just is. What matters is how the Lakers adjust and make use of the changes. Do they play to their strengths or not? Do they get Artest enough touches in places he can be successful, do they encourage him to be the playmaker he can be? Is the team defense going to be better? Early hints are yes, but preseason games are meaningless.

The Lakers have one other change to consider — the transition from Derek Fisher to another point guard. The Lakers are not going to offer Jordan Farmar a new contract before Oct. 31, so come the end of this season he will be a restricted free agent. If he wants to get paid, he can go out this year and earn it by basically demanding the job with his play. Same is true of Shannon Brown, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. It’s a long season, and over the course of it Fisher will be the starter but both of the others will get their chance to prove they should have the role next year. If one does not, the Lakers will look elsewhere. But the job is there to be taken if someone can defend well, play within the offense, run the break and hit open threes.

“A man like you I’d follow into combat blindfolded, and I wouldn’t be the first. Am I right, buddy?”
—Pete Campbell

Sometimes we can forget just how great a coach Phil Jackson is. First and foremost, the team plays hard for him. Next, he is the one man that can make Ron Artest feel included, by getting him into positions where he can succeed. Jackson does that better than any coach in the game today, maybe ever. To use an example we’ve used here before, when Kwame Brown just rebounded and played defense, when he played in the role Phil gave him, he didn’t suck. He was probably a backup center still (forced into a starting role), but he could fill a role. He just didn’t want to work hard and stay in that role. Basically that is what happens with all the guys that don’t work out in the triangle, they don’t stay in their role.

The Ron Artest of eight years ago may not have stayed in his role. Today’s Artest — with Phil and Kobe and Fisher in the locker room — may. It may even be likely. But I would not make any definitive declarations until January; we need a body of work to look at.

One other thing about Phil’s teams — traditionally they play great defense. The Bulls did. The difference between the 1999 and 2000 Lakers was really all about improvement on defense. And last year’s Lakers were a good defensive team with a great offense. With the addition of Artest and a healthy Bynum, the Lakers could be a very good defensive team. It will be a key this year, something to look for as we move into the season.

On a quick side note here — Phil Jackson cares about winning preseason games like Don Draper cares about being faithful to his wife. Which is why the one ugly preseason loss is not a big deal (there will be a couple during the season, too). It was not pretty — the turnovers trying to force the ball inside, the known issues defending quick point guards — but if you check, the Lakers record in games that matter is still 0-0. The team talked about it, and Phil sees this as the start of a new team starting to find its way through a long grind to come. That game really does not matter.

“Look, we’ve got oysters Rockefeller! Beef Wellington! Napoleons! We leave this lunch alone, it’ll take over Europe.”
—Roger Sterling

A great line from my favorite character on the show. And it’s a reminder that the European influence and style of play the Lakers remains.

Pau Gasol is at the heart of this, because he is a versatile offensive player who can beat you with either hand at the basket, with a jumper out to about 20 feet, or with a deft pass. His basketball IQ is through the roof. But it is not just him. Kobe Bryant grew up watching his father play in Europe and has some of that same versatility and big picture view in his game. Like many in Europe, Lamar Odom will pass before shooting. Sasha certainly has that in his game. Farmar can pass beautifully. The entire team plays unselfish basketball (most of the time).

This team was constructed to run the triangle offense, with versatile players and guys who can make the pass. It should be a beautiful thing to watch this year.

“I shall be both dog and pony.”
—Roger Sterling

Ron Artest can be his own show off the basketball court (and at times on it, in both good and bad ways). Lamar Odom is now a mainstream celebrity. Defending NBA Champions always face increased distractions and time demands, but this years Lakers could set a new record for ways to distract themselves.

The lesson here is simple but needs to be repeated — they need to stay focused, they can’t just coast and expect to flip the switch. They got away with it last year (remember the Houston series?) but this year the price for that will be steeper.

“I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.”
—Don Draper

Phil Jackson has sort of distilled the Zen idea of mindfulness — of being aware of each moment and living in that moment — into a basketball philosophy with his mantra “you’re only successful the moment you perform a successful act.”

This ties into the point about added distractions above, but we need to also remember that the Lakers have a big target on their back every time they walk into an NBA arena. The other team’s fans have circled this date on the calendar. So has that team. The Lakers need to live in the moment this season, and not rest on past successful acts.

“Don’t you love the chase? Sometimes it doesn’t work out; those are the stakes. But when it does work out, it’s like having that first cigarette: your head gets all dizzy, your heart pounds, your knees go weak. Remember that?
—Roger Sterling

“Our worst fears lie in anticipation” (quoting Honore de Balzac)
—Don Draper

The last two quotes go out to Lakers fans. Sometimes we can get caught up in a championship-or-bust mentality and miss out on the beautiful, fun things that do happen. We can pick apart what went wrong in a win rather than accepting that it is a win and remembering they do all not have to be pretty. Not every win has to be a first round knockout. First round knockouts and strikeouts are boring and un-American anyway. Bottom line, we should not get to a point where a win is a relief, it should be a joy. That is especially true in the playoffs.

We are excited about a new season, but we also fear the unknown so we try to convince ourselves our team can’t be beat when it matters. But that is simply not true. As I’ve said before, I think the Lakers have the largest margin for error of any contender this season and would be very difficult to beat if healthy. But that is talking about June. Right now, we need to enjoy this ride, this team, this moment. Enjoy the chase, it is that which makes the kill fun, not the act itself.