Small Ball: No Bynum, No Gasol for Friday Night

Kurt —  November 5, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets NBA Game 7 Western Conference semifinals in Los Angeles
The good news first: Andrew Bynum has a mild strain in his elbow, nothing serious. Also, Pau Gasol participated in practice — not contact drills — on Thursday, the first full practice he has taken part in for weeks.

The bad news: Neither is likely to play against Memphis.

Well, maybe that’s not bad news for Bynum, considering his track record with Memphis. And as I’ve hinted at before, there were some in the organization that seem to think Gasol could have come back faster (read PJ’s quotes and see where you think he falls on that spectrum).

But to quote Kelly Dwyer, what matters is not Memphis but May. Better to be healthy and error on the side of caution now.

All of this should make the Memphis game entertaining — the Grizzlies are a good offensive team, but so far this young season have been the worst defensive team in the league. And they have AI complaining about coming off the bench, just to add to the distractions.

I think the Lakers go small — Fisher/Brown/Kobe/Artest/Odom and get out and run with the Grizzlies. DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell will need to have good games, but with two teams that can really score this should be an entertaining night at Staples.

to Small Ball: No Bynum, No Gasol for Friday Night

  1. For your ‘going small’ lineup, I assume you mean *Odom* at the center spot (although I personally think Phil will start Powell at the 5).

    A correction is needed, sir.


  2. Bump LO to the five, Ron at the four, Kobe at the three, UPS at the two, and Fish up top. As strong as Ron is I love his chances against Zach Randolph. Of course Marc would probably roll over Odom, but Lamar would leave Gasol in the dust getting down the floor.

    It would be great if the bench came through and the Lakers were able to get a fairly easy win without too many minutes for Kobe and Fish. At this point I would be willing to sacrifice a win for some lighter minutes on Kobe and Fish.

    We don’t want to get Pau back just to have Fish or (even worse) Kobe go down.


  3. FYI, everybody: 2 nights ago I dreamt that one of my bosses was going to have DJ Mbenga fired for being bad at filing.


  4. Let’s hire Nellie for a day.


  5. Copied from previous thread:

    Kurt, is it safe to saw that the tension between Pau and Phil boils down to this:

    Pau doesn’t feel like his body is ready to play, and Phil thinks Pau is being a wimp?

    Is it also safe to say that Phil could have avoided this if he didn’t take the hard-line stance when Pau asked for the additional days off at the beginning of training camp?

    It seems to me that Pau was exhausted at the beginning of training camp, and wanted additional days – Phil denied him because he felt it was important to start developing continuity with Ron in the offense.

    Shortly thereafter, Pau tweaks his hamstring and is out for a few weeks – an injury that probably was the result of wear and tear.

    Since then, Pau has felt like he should take the maximum time possible to rest his injury and let his body recuperate.

    Phil, however, felt like it was solely Pau’s choice to play in the Euro Championships, and he did this for free. Jerry Buss, on the other hand, is paying him $16.5M this year to play for the Lakers. Phil feels like if his hamstring is good enough to play, he should play – it’s his job.

    In fact, Phil (and the Laker org) went so far as to order an MRI and send it overseas to his family and his Spanish doctors to show that Pau not only had a very minor hamstring strain, but he was also well enough to play.

    Pau, however, is still trying to maintain that his body doesn’t feel right to him, and he needs to rest to be in optimum shape.

    Would you say that’s pretty close to what’s going on?


  6. I agree, this could be really fun. I’m going to enjoy this. And watching to see how long Iverson can take sitting on the bench before his head explodes.

    Playing the PF would let Artest unleash all of that physicality. And more ShanWOW? This is going to be fun. This also could be a game to let Sasha get 25+ minutes and see if that jumpstarts…something.

    One thing, though – small ball is most effective with dead-eye shooters. With some of our players (esp the bench) slumping, do you guys think this’ll hurt the effectiveness of a speed lineup?


  7. Sorry for the double post, but am I the only person who thinks Iverson’s quotes make no sense?

    “The focus is on it because everybody in this whole world knows that I have a problem with it.” Yes, Allen, that would tend to be the story. And he says stuff like ‘Coming off the bench was never an issue until it happened last year in Detroit’ (paraphrase)…well if it never happened before why would it be an issue? His logic makes absolutely no sense. I liked him better when he was talking about practice.


  8. Dunk Specialist November 5, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Snoopy2006 you can’t anything AI says as thought out. The guy says what he feels. Thats why he gets in trouble so much and says so many dumb things. What he needs is someone (like a PR person) that can tell him to reflect on something before opening his mouth. I don’t think AI is a bad guy, just someone reacts without thinking. Though I do think complaining about PT in your first game when you missed training camp and haven’t had time to gel with your teammates is crazy. If Artest had done that Laker fans would have thrown stones at him.


  9. Spot up shooters… Is it too much to ask that Sasha get some run in this game? I mean, somebody is bound to tell him that his shot made to whine ratio would get him kicked off any decent torrent site.


  10. You would imagine that with a smaller lineup, Sasha and Ammo might get some more substantial minutes to catch & shoot from kickouts off drives and from Kobe and Ron in the post.

    WIth a bit of luck, some more minutes MIGHT get Sasha untracked, although I seem to recall us thinking this kind of thing ever since the start of last season…


  11. Sasha was always streaky. I really wish he’d have shorter streaks than a whole season, but streaky combined with emotional means he needs more than a couple of minutes per night to get back in a rhythm. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that he’s lost confidence in his shot (or himself?) to the point where it’s great in practice where there is less pressure, but when it really counts he stops believing he can hit even a large barn, and as a result, he doesn’t…


  12. At some point I kind of hope to see PJ force feed the bench some minutes (if maybe 2 guys at a time rather than the 3-5 at a time he’s been doing) just to rest the starters some. They can’t keep burning at the extent they have been.


  13. that was funny harold. the grizz are struggling, but it could be a tough slog for the lakers without a true center. gasol will be a monster inside and the grizz will like to run. i hope kobe’s feeling well, cause we’ll need 60 from him!


  14. This is one of those games where Kobe brings the big guns, but I am hoping he is very efficient. After the minutes he has played to start the year, I hope he doesn’t have to increase his minutes – i.e. not sit down for the entire game.


  15. I am also in favor of giving the bench players some serious run 2 to 3 at a time (not 5 at a time). If we lose, we lose, but I’d say we have at least a 50% chance of winning. It seems like a prime spot to do this – rather than burn out Kobe and LO trying to get the win.


  16. Considering Memphis now has poison-Ivy on their bench, it would definitely be interesting to see how our bench guards fare against him.

    This could get ugly unless Lamar has one of his better, more focused games. Else, we’re in for a long night of Live by Kobe, die by Kobe.


  17. My prediction-Mbenga goes for 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks and 6 fouls which when combined with Kobe’s 37, Artest’s 21 and Lamar’s 17/15 leads us to a comfy 3 point win. Also Mr. Sharapova will shoot quickly and often which will lead to him getting pulled quickly and often.


  18. “Else, we’re in for a long night of Live by Kobe, die by Kobe.”

    That sounds like a fun night to me.


  19. Wow, I know it’s L.A. and we can’t help but fixate on every little nostril twitch of our guys while TMZ blares away on the other channel.
    But now we’re supposed to create a new soap opera of Phil vs. Pau? Please. We need to celebrate that we’re getting some tough OT road wins, i.e. learning to win the hard ones w/out one of our superstars even suited up.


  20. Haha I think they should have a bet on how long they can sit AI on the bench before he either stands on his chair waving his arms around or pulls on a yellow vest and pretends to be derek fisher. You’ve got to admit AI is the man you love to hate, I love reading his comments on things and when he moans about getting no time. Coach Hollins comments on “done commenting” on Iverson are hilarious! Back to the game though, should be a good one, memphis have horrid D so hopefully the lakers can run some rings around them. And about Pau, I feel sorry for the big man, hes played tonnes and tonnes of games for the last few years so the big man deserves a break, Phil should get of his back.


  21. I was really impressed with Bynum’s passion and vocal energy last night. My biggest concern with him is always apathy/tendency to act as one rather than a team, and it was encouraging to see him directing traffic on both ends of the court — swinging those 9 foot arms and yelling to get everyone in the right position (or at least what he thought was right). I thought he seemed much more invested in the team’s execution than usual (rather than his own execution within the team).

    On another note, I’ve been extremely impressed by Denver so far. I think they should be included with other 5 elite teams as first rate contenders. I really don’t see any difference between their talent and depth and San Antonio’s. The difference is the track record and coaching, but Denver might have a higher ceiling. Melo is blossoming into a bonafide mvp candidate, their bigs defend and rebound with the best of them, they have shooting, bench play and veteran leadership. They were VERY close to overmatching us last spring, and it looks like they’ve only grown since then. I know it’s early, but I think we should make room for them at the contending table.


  22. No 7 footers Friday for the Lakers. At least one of the Gasol’s will have a good night.

    “Rebounding is not about size and strength; it is about timing and positioning.” – John Wooden.


  23. I wish I could watch a game tape with Phil just to ask questions about his substitution patterns. There is obviously a method to his madness, but I just would like to hear why he puts certain guys out there together.

    I like the Bynum and Artest with bench guys lineup, but I don’t get the 5 for 5 shuttle, either. Do those 5 play together a lot in practice?


  24. On the funnier side (it’s still November, we can afford not to be serious), this maybe a blessing in disguise. We do remember the last two recent times Bynum played against Memphis, right? 🙂 Knees got hurt and he was out of the season.

    I say don’t let Bynum play against Memphis the entire year! Haha.


  25. since it’s memphis, am hoping for a fun night. they’ll throw their offensive lineup at us and it is upon or small ballers to dictate tempo on both ends.

    i really can’t see us winning a slow halfcourt banging game without draining our starters. odom will see a lot of gasol and randolph and he will have to defend them actively not physically.

    won’t feel as bad if we drop this. but will be very happy if we blow them up and the bench actually builds on that.



  26. I think Bynum is faking it just so that he doesn’t have to face Memphis.


  27. Small-ball is energy-consuming, and I don’t know how much our vets have in the tank after those back-to-back OT games. Marc is gonna make us pay for trading him!


  28. Since many have said let’s burn sasha.. err give sasha some burn, I’d take it a step further. Let’s start him, slot him in with the starting line-up, sic him on gay and that way we can keep the guard sub-pattern that will eventually lead to the farmar-UPS pairing.

    Man.. does anyone else miss the days when the bench dropped fifty on the bulls? Come back quick and healthy Gas-ynum.


  29. But the bad things only happen when Andrew plays against Memphis, at Memphis. In January. When they come to visit us at Staples, he’s always fine.


  30. Anybody else not particularly surprised by what is going on in Cleveland?

    Have they dropped out of the top tier of teams, or can they turn it around with this roster?


  31. Kobe is going look to score often. OJ Mayo, AI and Bynum and Gasol out? Kobe likes to to show up the young guys like Mayo. Plus, he’ll want to show AI something…..and guess who has a game in MSG tonight? LeBron, who will no doubt try to impress.

    I see 30+ FGA from Kobe tonight. I hope he’s hot. We might see something special.


  32. First post of the season 🙂

    Well I think we gotta be pretty happy to be 4-1. Could’ve been easily 3-2 or 2-3.

    So far, Artest hasn’t proven our worst fears, or realized our best hopes, which is just fine.

    No Lakers team I remember has set the league on fire during the regular season, so I don’t expect this team to be Bos so far this year or Cle of last year.

    I just want better bench play, fewer minutes for Kobe, and no major injury. I won’t get too broken up if we don’t get HCA through the finals.

    One thing that bothers me thus far is so often (esp. down the stretch), the Lakers rely on superior talent to score point, be it Lamar blowing past his defender, Drew overpowering a smaller man, or Kobe making a tough turnaround, whereas the other team’s scoring comes from ball movement, breaking down defense, and getting an easy layup. If they give pts for high degree of difficulty, we’d average 110pts a game. Alas they don’t and it seems an unreliable way to win against better opponents.


  33. I’ll just take the W, no matter what happens…


  34. VoR,

    It’s too early to tell; Cleveland and San Antonio are both at .500, but everyone’s just making a big deal out of the Cavaliers because of the LeBron watch.

    In fact, both the Cavs and Spurs are playing better than us, if you look at point differential (3.8 and 3.7 vs. 1.0), which has proven to be a very good indicator of team strength in the past.

    So yeah, definitely too early to tell.


  35. @VoR
    I think they can turn it around with this roster, if they did things differently. I remember in a previous thread here someone commented that their offense is basically “stand around and watch Lebron”… they run a pick and roll for him, or they get out of the way so he can dunk. Unfortunately I don’t remember who it was that said it.

    Thing is, that’s not really an offense that makes full use of everyone else’s talents, to the point where there might well be a lot of under-utilized potential on that team that never comes to the surface, never develops, and as a result never benefits the team. Shaq may be old and a bit washed up, but he could still contribute significantly, especially if they ran a play for him once in a while.

    I’m starting to think that a large part of Cleveland’s problems are due to a very bad combination of Star Ego and Unimaginative Coaching.

    I haven’t watched an entire Cavs game this season though, only highlights, so take my comments with a grain of salt. 🙂


  36. Put me in the “just get a win” camp. It would be great to see Kobe go Nova in a win though. He’s had a day of rest, no big men to pound inside and Memphis doesn’t really have anyone to guard him. It’d be fun to see one of his 50 pt outburst in this kind of context.

    Here’s another interesting thought. Lots of pixels have been generated on how LO hasn’t been an effective second option in the past. Due to whatever theory you subscribe to. But this year, we’ve seen the new and improved LO with better focus and concentration. I wonder how he’ll do as a second option tonight? Will he go off for a triple double ending up in the 25+ point range?

    This is assuming Kobe doesn’t explode for 50+ of course and get most of the shots. Either way, it should be an interesting game to watch and see how the team adjusts to not having their two big men.

    Oh yeah and I hope Phil tells DJ he’s allowed to take his 21 footers only if there’s no time left on the shot clock. I wouldn’t be surprised if on the road, teams start playing Brickhouse whenever DJ or Sasha take a shot.


  37. VoR,

    Re:”I’m starting to think that a large part of Cleveland’s problems are due to a very bad combination of Star Ego and Unimaginative Coaching.”

    Yes and yes. It’s been that way, really. Mike Brown gets all this flak for his offense, but there is no way that the offense remains the same *unless* LeBron like it like that. Obviously he does.


    • Last night was the first time I got to watch San Antonio for any stretch, and they did not impress. As a team Pop always has them start slow and build, he gets that it’s a grind, so I take it with some salt, but they looked a step slow. Winning in Utah is never easy, but SA did not impress me much. And Reed is right, Denver has impressed me more so far. But, I remember writing about being the best team in November…..


  38. im setting the kobe under over for tonight at 45, but i would love to see him crack 60


  39. @wondahbap,
    It boosts his numbers, and he gets to be the main star, who wouldn’t like that?

    The fact that it continues is probably a side-effect of the same bad combination. Mature stars realize they need to share the ball and the glory, and the let other players on the team shine as well — it’s a team sport, and that’s the only way for the team as a whole to be successful. And highly skilled and creative coaches should be able to make an immature star realize that and change his behavior to benefit the team more than himself.

    I love watching Lebron play, he’s a phenomenon and his athleticism is unmatched in the league right now. I have issues with his personality though.


  40. Let’s enjoy this one folks. We won’t be seeing too many games where Kobe goes to work without a number two or three (Gasol and Bynum) in the offense. I hope he goes for 50. Vintage Kobe. He’s still got it!


  41. Kurt,

    I think many “experts” will be disappointed in their San Antonio pick to make the WCF or Finals. I’ve been thinking that they aren’t going to be the team most expect to see this year. They will look very good in spurts, but I don’t think they’re good enough to separate from the rest of the conference as expected.

    Personally, I picked Dallas to lose to us in the WCF.


  42. I vote for Ammo at Center to start.


  43. For those of you looking for some fantasy reading, check out this commentary on how Lebron could end up in LA. If only dreams could come true….


    • MannyP13, I read that the other day. Smith is the NBA King of wild speculation. The best part of this whole thing is he never actually talks money or how the Lakers would swing signing LeBron. Details, details.


  44. Cleveland’s big men have issues; I was thinking that watching the game last night & then Rose wrote about it this morning on ESPN. He basically said that they don’t have big men that can space the floor and shoot from somewhere other than the paint sucessfully/consistently, and aren’t really athletic enough to defend PRs & in transition.

    Their offense so far looks ugly compared to last season; I bet they miss John K.


  45. i saw we start odom artest kobe sasha farmar today and aim for the season’s first 300 point game.


  46. Sasha is really one of the more intriguing, confounding cases I can ever remember seeing. If you recall in the preseason, he came out looking great – just draining his shots effortlessly. Of course those were games that didn’t count, and I felt like it was a window into what must happen during Laker practices, when from all reports he is an absolutely deadeye, coldblooded shooter.

    The only other LA athlete I can remember having this severe a case of the in-game yips was Steve Sax in the early 80s, that one season where he just could not throw the ball from second to first. You could see the gears spinning wildly in his head as he’d aim, pump, and then fire the throw over Garvey’s head, 15 rows back into the stands. He eventually got it together, I’m hoping Sasha can do the same.


  47. I thought we agreed we could get LeBron for Adam Morrison and the equipment guy? What happened to those negotiations!?! 😀

    Do you have a link to that article? I’d be interested in reading it, since I’m of half a mind to reply that big men who can’t shoot would be much less of a problem for Cleveland if the rest of the team could shoot well.


  48. when SA is playing well, you think “wow that is a nicely put together and well-coached team”. when not, they look old and tired. Duncan has always been a skill player and he still retains most of his skills, and no one is a better manager than Pop; I just don’t know if even Pop can manage them into the WCF much less the finals.

    On LBJ: I remember when Shaq entered the league, there was a lot of genuine excitement over his uniqueness as a player and his easygoing personality and charisma. Eventually, Shaq showed himself to be a pretty immature person whose antics are often but not always entertaining. He’s moved away from Magic Johnson and is now closer to Sir Charles.

    I think some of the sheen has similarly come off Lebron, as people realize he’s not quite the unselfish consummate teammate he was hyped to be. Kobe of course has never had a honeymoon period; he’s always divided opinions, with I think more detractors than defenders.

    One difference b/t the two that I see is Lebron’s apparent ambition is to be the biggest star in the world (I think he’s said this himself) and basketball is his ticket (not said but I think inferable), whereas Kobe is obsessively focused on basketball and wants to be considered the best ever (I’ve never heard Kobe mention wanting to be the biggest or richest anything). It doesn’t make one better than the other, it’s just how they’re wired. As a basketball fan, though, I think I prefer Kobe.


  49. RE the Spurs: I think they’d happily trade some of their wing depth for another legit big man. I never like to doubt Duncan, but he is aging and they don’t have one legit Center on the roster outside of Timmy. That means he’ll never get to truly play PF and will always see the oppositions most phyisical defender. Plus, outside of Blair, the Spurs don’t have one really good rebounder and that will hurt them over the long haul and especially against teams with depth at big man. I just don’t trust ‘Dyess or Bonner to rebound and defend the post against teams like us or the Nuggs.

    RE tonight’s small ball lineup: I think Phil will start Mbenga. I think it’s possible LO sees some time at Center (maybe when Thabeet makes his cameo – what a 2nd pick huh?) , but more likely that Ron and LO will split time at PF with DJ and Powell splitting time at Center. I think this will lead to more minutes for Luke and also more minutes for Kobe at SF. I think an interesting lineup that we may see tonight (especially with Thabeet in the game) is the WOW, Kobe, Ron, Luke, LO lineup that gives us the most versatility on offense while also giving us some size and rebounding on defense. (On a side note, I could really see a lineup like this if Memphis has AI, Mayo, Gay, Randolph or DeMarre Carrol, and Thabeet on the floor together. With this group, Kobe could guard AI, Wow on Mayo, Ron on Rudy, Walton on Randolph/Carrol and LO on Thabeet and we wouldn’t be hurt on defense or on the boards as long as Zach is controlled – likely through our SSZ look.)

    In the end and overall for tonight, I worry about Marc Gasol having his way on the offensive glass (last year he killed us in this area even with Pau in the game), but hopefully that will be counteracted by gang rebounding by our guys. We have the size and depth on the wing to hit the boards hard and tonight we’ll need it to get the win.


  50. As luubi wrote, the Lakers could be 3-2or 2-3. How true. Offensive efficiency is 102.8 (for 20th place). Defensive efficiency is 101.8 (for 9th) place. A difference of 1.0 is no difference at all. In 08/09 the Lakers were 3rd and 7th. So yes, they’ve just squeaked by so far.

    And yes, 5 games is a very small sample size but still 2 figures leap out:

    The Lakers are LAST in the league at Opponents Offensive rebound % . Giving up an offensive rebound on 32.7% of their opponents missed shots. The league average is 26.7%.

    So although while the defensive rating is good, the Lakers SSZ defensive rotations leave them out of position to control the defensive boards, giving extra possessions to the opponent. Of course Pau’s return will help, but being 30th in league is not just down to Pau’s absence.

    More puzzling is that they have the talent to dominate on the defensive boards. LO and Kobe are outstanding defensive rebounders. Artest should be good. Bynum is/was excellent when motivated. (I won’t even mention the bench as they hardly play any minutes any more – but suffice it to say there is no DeJuan Blair or Paul Millsap coming off the bench).

    When the undersized Rockets, handily outrebound you on both ends (from a % of available boards perspective) there is a clear imbalance somewhere that needs to be addressed structurally – not just with personnel.

    The other stat that leaps out is turnovers. The Lakers are committing 17.6 T/O a game which is 24th in the league. But as all the other teams that are worse are playing at a faster pace bar the Thunder and Bobcats, in effect the Lakers are the 3rd worst in the league.

    Turnovers definitely will improve with Pau’s return and Artest is better integrated. Last year, the Lakers started poorly and improved over the rest of the year.

    Talk on rotations, pick a man , not the same man, box him out, rebound the ball or let your team mate rebound the ball. Simple no?

    Tonight’s game w/o Bynum will be a good petrie dish to examine the team’s performance on both of these statistical categories.


  51. I would love to see LeBron come play for LA… the Clippers. That would be fun.

    Keep him away from the Lakers please.

    Following up on Cleveland, I know it is early, but I think they have gone backwards from last year while other teams have gotten better. They built the team around LeBron, now adding Shaq, they need to build around both those guys – and they haven’t. Shaq will never be able to ‘just be a complimentary piece.’

    I am surprised and impressed by what I have seen of Dallas so far this year. I was not expecting them to look this good (again it is super early in the season).


  52. Here it is, Mimsy…in today’s Daily Dime. 🙂 Usually these “commentary” columns are from guys like Adande or Stein. It is interesting every once in a while to read a former (and still relatively connected to current players) player’s thoughts.


  53. PS – He also refers to Mo’s shooting production suffering in that text, so maybe you are on the right track, too. 🙂


  54. Not only do the Cavs need to build around both their big guys, they need to drastically change how they play, that’s one of the side-effects of adding a guy like Shaq. He’s still a dominant player, and he’s at his best when he gets to dominate. He changes the dynamic on the floor, just like adding Gasol changed the dynamic on the Lakers.

    The season is still young, there is a lot of time left to make adjustments and learn how to play together. The reason I’m not sure the Cavs will get that done is the pattern they established in the play-offs of not making the right adjustments during any series and consequently they ended up losing to the Magic. (Though admittedly there was some talent differential between the role players on the two teams there as well.)


  55. Thanks Jane! Now I have reading material for my next break 🙂


  56. You know what I love?

    When the media is so willing to say that LeBron makes his teammates better, but when the Cavs struggle, his teammates or coach aren’t good enough. Which is it? I don’t point that out to knock LeBron. It’s just comical how they pick and choose.

    I think the Cavs problems are more serious, given that it early, because of the pressures of this season. leBron’s free agency, Shaq, and match-up problems with Boston and Orlando magnify the problems. I think they’ll get better, but they don’t have as much room to breathe.


  57. 24) regarding Phil’s decisions with the bench, here’s my theory: Phil knows his bench guys. They have all played in the system, some for several years. I think to a certain extent, that Phil is setting his bench up for failure (by giving them short minutes and not mixing in starters) in an effort to challenge them. They’ve played together long enough, they shouldn’t need long minutes to get a feel for their game in the offense. I think he’s using a must-win game type of rotation early in the year with Pau out so that they can realize that they’re not always going to have a lot of rope on a team this deep. They have to make the most of what they have in short minutes.


  58. Re: Lebron and the Cavs

    I think this is a good comparison for the Lakers only so we can calm down a bit. As in, it could be worse, we could have lost our close games and been like the Cavs.

    The Cavs problems are two-fold. One, they were huge overachievers last year. They went 39-1 in home games they were trying to win. Obviously this couldn’t last. They also won nearly every game vs. under .500 teams last year. Again, this can’t last. As Laker fans know, it’s hard to make your guys give 100% effort in every game and you’re going to occasionally drop one. Last year the Cavs didn’t give away anything. This year, with the addition of Shaq, you can pretty much mark them down for losing 5-10 games off last year’s pace.

    Second off, adding Shaq doesn’t help any of their needs. As has been said over and over on the blogosphere, Ilgauskas+Shaq is potentially the slowest and least mobile frontcourt in the modern history of the NBA. Then there’s the matter of where Shaq stands when he doesn’t have the ball, which is the primary area where Lebron drives to get his points. Unfortunately for both of them, they’re stuck with a coach who is too limited to figure out how to get them to work together. They will have at least a 25-30 game adjustment period before they actually start running plays instead of just playing playground ball.

    I’m of the opinion that the Cavs will eventually improve and maybe be an ECF team, but they’re clearly behind Boston and they really haven’t solved any of their matchup issues with regards to Orlando. No team is hoping for a Garnett injury more than Cleveland.


  59. Regarding the Cav’s, I think the obvious reason they’re struggling is Shaq and the fact that they really have 3 centers now and no PF. Varejao is a PF with zero range and defensive minded, so he’s effectively another center.

    I watched that game last night, and moreso than their lack of shooting big men, the fact that they are just SLOWW was killing them. The Bulls got out and ran every posession and Shaq was barely making it down the floor. Varejao, Z, and Shaq couldn’t keep up with Miller, Noah, and Thomas.


  60. Kurt,

    I watched most of that SA game too. I wasn’t surprised at Manu being a step slow. Figured he’d be rusty and need most of the season to get going.

    What did surprise me was Duncan. There was a lot of talk of him shedding weight over the summer and being more fit. I had half expected him to do what he did last year before he broke down. Be dominant early and in spurts while letting the extra depth pick up the burden.

    But he doesn’t look as good as I thought he’d be. That said, agreed that it’s early and Pop like PJ has the history of letting the team slowly build and come together.


  61. I am looking forward to tonight’s Ammo sighting.

    Let’s hope that all of our poor 3 point shooting comes together tonight, and we run and gun from the arc.

    Go Lakers.


  62. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I kind of hope PJ throws out a line up with Fisher, Farmar, ShanWOW and Vujacic all in at the same time. With Hakeem Bryant at the 5. Why not? Its not like Memphis defends anyways, right?

    The question I have for the Cavs is one I haven’t seen anybody address. Hollinger showed in his article today that the Cavs look almost exactly like they did in 2007 and 2008- good D, bad O, which led them to 45-50 wins. This year they are right on track to repeat that.

    The outlier was last year when they were actually pretty good on offense. Last year they went out and got Brown an offensive coordinator (John Kuester, now coach of Detroit). Lo and behold, their parts suddenly worked well together. He leaves and they apparently put the offense back in Brown’s hands to the exact same result as previously. Why not give him a new guy to help out? Is it just ego on Brown’s part to pretend there isn’t a problem here? This is inexplicable to me.


  63. Travis

    I think that you hit on the key problem for the Cav this year, defensive foot speed.

    First and foremost last years version of the Cavs was a defensive team coached by a defensive coach. In fact, the Cavs had the best defense in the league. Their defense was centered around Big Z (who is slow) however, he was surrounded by swift footed rotators.
    Big Z’s lack of foot speed was usually offset by the swift and athletic players around him (a good defense can tolerate one slow mover in this way).

    However, when combined with Shaq there is no hope of accomdating two slow rotators. This means that the efficient Cav defense of last year is gone if you play these players together. They will not be able to rotate to shooters in a timely manner.

    The Cavs may remedy this by playing Z or Shaq but not both at the same time. However, both will still be vunerable to the P&R like last year. This is why I think getting Shaq will not help them in the long run. He may slightly improve their offense, but they will certainly be worse on defense and that never works if you have a defensive coach.


  64. As I see it, Mike Brown has until the All-Star break to figure things out, otherwise the Cavs fans are going to be out for blood.

    And while I don’t think he’s a very good coach — who does? — it’s not entirely his fault that the Cavs are struggling. The situation is uncannily similar to that in Phoenix last season: a talent-laden squad with championship expectations bets the farm that Shaq will provide all the answers, but his presence really creates more questions and concerns.

    Honestly, when Phoenix traded for Shaq I laughed aloud and thought to myself, “There goes their shot at a title.” Their window was barely cracked open prior to the deal, but that trade slammed it closed for years to come. And I felt the same when Shaq went to Cleveland this off-season.

    Both situations are classic examples of GMs who overreacted to what other teams were doing. Phoenix saw first-hand on Christmas 2007 that the Lakers were a different squad with Bynum, a real threat which had held its position atop the Pacific for long enough to show the team was not a fluke. And when Bynum went down, Pau followed soon after, still presenting the Suns with the dilemma of stopping Kobe with a legit 7-footer inside. So they blew up the D’Antoni model and tried to counter size with size, disregarding what that would do to their other players and system. How’d that work out for ya, Steve Kerr?

    And Kerr’s fellow Spurs School of Basketball Academy graduate Danny Ferry made the same mistake last season when Dwight Howard killed his Cavs in the post-season. But Ferry’s error was thinking the Cavs’ inability to stop Howard was their weakness; in reality, Cleveland lost because it couldn’t stop the Magic’s shooters because its wing players weren’t adequate on D. Rather than address the real issue, he panicked in the, “We need to show LeBron we’re trying” mindset and went for the Big Band-Aid.

    As others noted, Z and Shaq and that kid from “High School Musical” (with a giant fern on his head) aren’t good enough on D to stop anyone because the three of them together lack the foot speed. On offense, Z could at least play pick-and-pop with LeBron, but Shaq doesn’t seem like the right fit there, either.

    Bottom line – Mike Brown will be the scapegoat, if not in-season than soon after the Cavs lose in the playoffs. But a good amount of his blood will be on Ferry’s hands, and he’ll soon be out of a job should LeBron skip off for greener pastures next summer.


  65. @Travis and khjohn,
    Item 2 on the Daily Dime that Jane linked to earlier touches on the points you’re making by pointing out that the Cavs scored more, and more effectively, when both Shaq and Ilgauskas were on the bench.