He’s Baaaaaack!

Zephid —  November 20, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers play Chicago Bulls in Los Angeles

The return of Pau Gasol, to me, was like going to see a really hyped-up movie, and then the movie actually being really good.  I sat down with my soda, popcorn, and watermelon Sour Patch Kids, totally prepared to be disappointed.  Little did I know that Pau would capture my attention early with a superb first quarter, scoring 10 of the first 13 Laker points, then carry us through the game to the tune of 24 silky smooth points and 13 rebounds.  A few preliminary Gasol points:

  • As expected, Pau improved our defensive rebounding, limiting Chicago to 10 offensive rebounds on 46 missed shots.  While not spectacular, there was definitely a noticeable improvement during the game, especially against one of the better offensive rebounding players this season (Noah).
  • Curiously, Andrew Bynum seemed to become an even blacker-hole than he already is (0 assists, tons of forced shots).  When he catches the ball, it seems as if the only thing Bynum is looking at is the rim; there were numerous times when Odom or Gasol were open near the basket or a kickout was available to Bynum, but he just didn’t see them.
  • I didn’t really like Kobe’s play when he wasn’t in the low-post.  He had only 5 shots within 10 feet of the basket, going back to the mid-range jump shots that we all love and hate.  Worse was that the offense just stopped moving whenever Bryant caught the ball on the wing or in the pinch post.  He would turn and face his man, take a couple of jab steps, then usually launch a semi-contested jump shot.  No ball-movement, no player movement, just Live by the Kobe, Die by the Kobe.
  • Lakers shot just 6-19 from three last night, led in their futility by Kobe (0-2), Shannon (0-2), Sasha (0-3), and Jordan (0-2).  It’s kinda sad when your frontcourt (Artest 2-4, Odom 2-4)  doubles the amount of made threes by your backcourt (Fisher 2-2).  If Gasol is going to draw double teams and kick out for threes, the Lakers have to start making them.

No question that Gasol makes the Lakers a much, much better team.  While Gasol’s return hides some of the Lakers numerous mistakes, he also tends to magnify some of their outstanding flaws:  Bynum needs to work on his vision and passing out of the post, Kobe needs to move better off the ball and stop holding the ball on the wing, and the Lakers as a whole really need to work on their three-point shooting.  Maybe Kobe needs to recover the shooting regimen he gave to Ariza and take his own advice.



to He’s Baaaaaack!

  1. After that column, we are likely to see comments, but not much new insight. Zephid, you covered the waterfront. Thank You!


  2. I agree about Bynum, but can’t help but want him to shoot almost every time he touches the ball. I want him to drive hard and dunk on people.


  3. Is anyone else cringing whenever Lamar does his little two dribble step-back 3 move?

    I think he did that 3 times in 5 minutes last night. He made 2 but I feel a year older. Was he doing that this whole season?


  4. Whew, it was like a long extended training camp this year, waiting for the full team to be on the court (except Luke).

    The season finally began.


  5. Zephid, it seems to me you were a little hard on Kobe. 9 assists and 4-5 shots that didn’t drop which often do. I think all of us wish he would not hold the ball so much, but it didn’t seem to me that he was killing the ball movement like he does sometimes (granted I wasn’t watching for specifics like you are able to do).

    The 0-fer from the three back up guards is like a flashing red light on the dashboard. Phil needs to find a way to get one of those guys to be a consistent player. Pick one and ride it out with him, hot or cold – give him minutes.

    Just my two cents.


  6. Kobe had quite a few shots last night that literally rimmed out on him. With Pau back in the mix I really would like to see less of Kobe in the post. It just gets too crowded around the box. Of course, that can be adjusted as the line up changes. But when Pau and Drew are out there together Kobe needs to go back to being the perimeter slasher he is. I can’t help but think some of the spacing issues are caused by Kobe’s post position.

    I do wonder what Gasol’s return will mean for Andrew’s productivity. Those two have never gotten a consistent amount of time to work with each other on the floor due to injuries. It may get a little bumpy for Bynum as he figures out how to play off of Pau. However, I do think he will figure it out.

    Lastly, it was just great to see the Lakers real starting line up out there for the first time in a real game. Pau Gasol plays the game with so much skill and grace. I am not sure most NBA fans truly appreciate how good that guy is. He is truly one of the best players in the world.


    • Re: Kobe in the post. Check back this afternoon for my post from the game last night, where I asked Kobe about being on the perimeter versus posting up and see his response. (That, in the biz, is what we call a tease.)


  7. 2 – Agreed.

    I want young Drew to make the other team weep with frustration.


  8. Maybe its me, but I feel in the past few games, Kobe’s post game was not as good as it was in the first few games of the season.

    I don’t know if it was other teams homing in on him down low or what, but in the two previous losses at home he looked ineffective. People blocking off his move, stripping the ball from him, etc.

    I hope that with Pau in, he can do his post moves more effectively so he isn’t double teamed and focused on by the defense as much.



  9. Pau Gasol plays the game with so much skill and grace. I am not sure most NBA fans truly appreciate how good that guy is. He is truly one of the best players in the world

    Really, He is a worldwide superstar, Euro champ Nba champ anyone that watches basketball on a regualr basis knows Pau is one of the best players in the world. l


  10. @10,

    There are many NBA fans that pay very little attention to international ball except for the Olympics every four years. Many American basketball fans still have a superiority complex when it comes to international players.

    When ESPN did an article about Spain’s Euro Championship win (and Gasol’s role) it was amazing to read so many comments discounting not only Pau, but the tournament itself. On one thread I was going to battle for Gasol. Believe me, there are still many stateside fans that are ignorant of Pau Gasol’s basketball value.


  11. @T. Rogers
    Well, the American Basketball league calling their finals “the world championships” was a bit of a clue…


  12. Gabriel – Kobe’s post game has been less effective lately, although he did have it going against Detroit pretty well.

    T. Rogers – I totally agree with you as far as it getting too crowded down low with Kobe constantly trying to be in the post. I’ve pointed this out a couple times before on this site, but I was happy to see him out on the perimeter more. No he didn’t shoot the ball well but he wasn’t shooting bad shots. Trust me, he’ll be more efficient as the season goes on. Also, I think with Kobe getting out of the post it opened up more opportunities for Ron Artest. I thought he was finally able to be aggressive.

    Kurt – I’m really looking forward to what Kobe has to say about being in the post. I’m sure his competitive nature will not allow him to concede the fact that he’s getting older and the post game is really a key in prolonging his career.


  13. Pau or not, I love having Kobe in the post because he draws so much attention. I’d love to see some stats on how many assists/hockey assists he gets from that position. In addition to attracting double teams, Kobe is highly adept at making the cross court pass to a shooter on the opposite wing or corner.

    As for Kobe being less effective in the post over the past few games, I chalk it up to 1) his groin injury and 2) as I always say, overcomplicating the play. When Kobe catches the ball and immediately rises up to shoot or spins for the fadeaway, it’s money. The defender can’t do anything about it. Over the past few games, I’ve seen Kobe dribbling more and using too much strength to separate from the defender. This results in off-balance and mistimed shots.


    • In the last few games teams have also done quick doubles on Kobe and put taller defenders on him in the post (something easier to do pre-Gasol). That had an impact.


  14. I agree about a little too much “live by the Kobe, die by the Kobe,” but part of it was also Kobe trying to adjust to the new spacing in the offense. I’ve noticed he’ll take some bad/contested shots to try to get himself in a rhythm and also see what works and what doesn’t in terms of spots.

    As far as Bynum goes, I felt like he was gunning for stats…but he’s a young player who’s trying to keep his production high – he has the goal of making the All Star Game.

    That said, it would be nice if Bynum would, you know, “think” about passing once in a while. Zephid is right, he had a ton of opportunities for quick post passes for layups that he completely ignored.

    One nice trend over the past few games is Ron looks like he’s finally getting comfortable shooting three’s in the tri. He’s been pretty money, lately.


  15. Kobe needs to use all the space on the court, including looking for his three point shot. When he does this it stretches the defense and creates more opportunities for everyone else. When he does the same thing over and over, the defense can adjust and develope decent defensive rotations to cover the play. Gasol being back will greatly facilitate this.


  16. Pau was great. Kenny Smith had a “good” analogy when he said the lakers were a living room with just love seats and no couch. It just wasn’t right. But now Pau (our couch) is back, everything is where is should be and looks right. As critical as I am of fisher when he’s playing bad, I’ll give him just as much praise when he plays well. Fisher had really quite but really great game. He played really good defense. And he didn’t force any shots. One or two contested jumpers by fish is okay. But he can’t get them up to about 8 bad shots a game. But this game it was better ball movement and fisher was just waiting for the ball, when he got the ball in rhythm, he knocked them down. Beautiful. Thats the fisher I want to see. Even if he goes 0-6 in a game where he’s not forcing shots, I’ll understand because bad games happen.

    And I was happy to see Odom in the mix of the things. His energy has been way up in the last two games.

    Artest is just playing great defense and getting better in the offense.

    The biggest adjustment will be for Bynum and he’ll figure it out in a couple games.


  17. A tease, huh, cool… The thing is that we are just so used to a 7 footer in Pau being able to SEE the court and pass effectively, he could darn near run the offense. We expect that out of Bynum (the black hole) also, and he is just not there yet or maybe never will be, who knows.


  18. Don’t you all understand that the black hole that is Andrew Bynum is a huge detriment to our team. Why not try to trade him (while his value is high) [edited for trade speculation]. I just can’t understand why people like to defend this injury prone big man who refuses to pass and can not rebound.


  19. It’s nice to see order restored. Everyone now seems to be in their rightful place. Fisher’s lack of footspeed on the perimeter on defense is a bit mitigated by our 7 foot gatekeepers.

    It’s interesting to see Hinrich, since I know some Lakers fans clamored to get him. For $9m, I think we got the better deal in getting Odom as opposed to shooting for someone like Hinrich.

    It’ll be interesting to see though, who takes the back-up SF minutes. Perhaps we’ll see more of the Farmar, Brown, Kobe wing formation, but sooner or later, we’ve got to find 10 minutes from someone besides Ron and Kobe to fill that slot.


  20. Kurt,

    When you started this blog, did you think you would be at the point where you interviewing the best player in the World? I know your credentials are issued through your other gig, but that has to be pretty sweet. You do this blog for the love, and the love is returning the favor.

    Well, that is until a player you respect turn out to be a total d*#k. I’m sure that would be a let down.


  21. one of my favorites things to do is try to look at something from the other guys perspective, ie; take a walk in his shoes.
    so that occurred to me last night when we had been giving the Bulls a real drumming, and then I looked up and noticed after a time out that *the starters were back in!*
    and I thought the bulls must be saying to themselves, “man they’ve been doing this to us, with the bench??!!?”

    what a great time PJ must be having as the coach with the ability to play with his rotations so much. think about it, starting with Fish, Kobe, Ron, Drew and Pau, then first sub in is LO, for either Pau or Drew depending on circumstances, next in is Shannon, for Fish, and shortly behind that either one of the Pau/Drew who was on the bench getting a blow, (so that means we are never without a 7 footer on the floor, and often times have 2).
    another thing I liked was subbing in Farmar for… Artest! thus moving KB to the 3, so then we have Farmar and Shannon, (developing a good chemistry) and Drew, LO and KB (or sub Pau for Drew) and this is considered our … bench!!
    PJ has so many options!
    unfortunately, this will mean less time for Josh Powell who I think deserves more time the way he’s been playing this year, so I think he’ll work his way in. having Pau return will probably mean much less time for Mbenga, but he’ll handle that ok.
    the one guy I see sulking to the end of the bench and maybe never recovering from it emotionally, is Sasha, now that he has this high profile girlfriend, he’s going to put so much pressure on himself, that he just won’t be able to perform, and with a team this deep, see ya.


  22. Was Bynum’s success limited by a poor grasp of his options, by a lack of player movement, or a combination of both?


  23. Great post, Zephid.

    RE: Bynum’s Black-Holiness,

    Does anybody else but me recall that he used to be (in his 2nd and 3rd seasons) quite an adept passer? I remember multiple instances (flashes really) of him being great at hitting cutters and finding the open man. Thus, I ask: Is Bynum only recently developing into a black hole? If so, why now?


  24. I also agree with the bynum “blackhole” and live by the kobe, die by the kobe. Bynum’s role was to get the ball and finish when Pau was out, not so much now that Pau is back. So he’ll have to be more aware of other players and get them the ball when he doesn’t have a good shot. And for kobe he got the ball in the post and shot almost every time when Pau was out. In the lakers 3 losses, kobe had a terrible game in each one. Now Pau’s back, he’s moving the ball, playing more out of the post, and it only took one quarter for kobe to adjust. I just hope it doesn’t take to much longer for Bynum.

    This is off topic, very farfetched, sorry, but Bynum has a chance to have the most championships in the era of modern basketball. He’ll be 26-27 by the time the kobe era is over, hopefully with 4 championships. If he’s still with the lakers and continues to improve, He will be a top 2 or 3 center in the game and another star or two won’t have a problem teaming with him on the lakers with his championship experience. And because its the lakers. All stars will have to stay aligned for that. But its more likely then lebron teaming with wade.


  25. Don’t get me wrong. I like Kobe’s post play against certain teams in certain situations. His performance against the Suns was masterful. But the Suns also lack size and believe defense is not necessary.

    But Denver adjusted to Kobe’s post play. Teams are starting to put longer players on him to better contest his shots. That is why he has gotten away from the automatic, turn and shoot move he did before. Longer players are force him to do more dribbling to create space. That is why his post play hasn’t looked as fluid the last few games. Of course, you can’t discount the groin injury either.

    Still Kobe Bryant is one of the most intelligent ball players in the game. He will figure out how to make good use of this new asset to his game. As a team they are still working out the kinks. That is why I don’t care about point differential, FG percentage, and all that other jazz. At this point the numbers that matter to me are the W-L numbers. I’ll 9-3 any day of the week.


  26. 20. CDog, Bynum has never been a facilitator from the post because he’s rarely been double-teamed. This is a new experience for Drew and because he’s a quick learner, he’ll no doubt improve his passing from the post as the season goes on. Also, Drew cannot rebound? Did you even watch the game last night? Drew and Pau played volleyball on the offensive boards the whole night. You’re also missing Drew’s help defense. He caused at least ten missed shots in last night’s game, not including his one block. The guy is an extremely difficult obstacle to shoot over.


  27. Bynum’s game is still improving, so I won’t get on him for being a black hole. He’s been like that for a while now, but he’s still an efficient scorer (right now), so I can live with it. We haven’t seen him force it in crucial situations yet, so I think we need to relax just a bit.

    I think his passing will develop as our team cohesion does. He’s going to have to in order for Phil to keep him out there in crunch time. That is what Drew wants most, and he’ll pass it if he wants to be out there down the stretch. For his sake, he’ll have to. From Phil’s perspective, and his teammates’ willingness to pass it to him in crucial situations.


  28. I second most of what the Dude wrote above.

    I’ll add, that Drew does have a scorer’s mindset – he wants the stats – but that is okay as long as he is learning.

    Also, he still has not had a chance to play a whole year healthy with this team. We can cut the kid some slack.


  29. RE Kobe in the post: I think he’ll find the balance he needs to be effective and efficient on offense. Last night, he was already showing that he’s more than comfortable moving to the perimeter and then moving to the post when the opening presented itself.

    Also, KD made a point that needs to be mentioned again – Kobe knows this offense inside and out. He knows where to get his shots, but he also knows the motions/action necessary in order to end up in a position to get his shot. That means, he’s moving decisively to spots on the floor (within the offense) and forcing himself into positions where, if he catches the ball, he’ll get it exactly where he wants. The only other player that knows the offense this well is Fisher. This is to Kobe’s advantage when he wants to post up because he’s moving from the perimeter to the post – hence he’s able to both impact the direction of the play and put himself in position to be the guy that takes the shot at the end of the play. A traditional post player can do the same thing (Shaq used to dictate the direction of the play a lot by yelling to guards and pointing to where he wanted the initial pass to go), but he has to be demanding. Pau and Drew either aren’t that type of player (Pau) or aren’t experienced enough to do so (Drew).

    Another point – the other name for the Triangle offense is the “Triple Post” offense. I’m specualating here, but aren’t we in fact seeing a Triple Post with Kobe, Pau, and Drew? I mean, last night we had Kobe on the weakside block, Pau at the high post (FT line area), and Drew on the opposite low block. Yes, at times the spacing could have been better, but this is a deadly offensive allignment. From this position (especially when Kobe has the ball), the team can either 1). have Kobe shoot a turnaround jumper or create for himself with a spin move to the baseline 2). Kobe sees the help off Pau and he hits him for a FT line jumper or on a cut down the middle of the lane 3). Kobe can hit Bynum on a lob or Bynum can sneak under his man for a pass that puts him right under the basket. And last night, we saw all of these options play themselves out (Kobe did end the night with 9 assists). I mean, this is essentially the same allignment that we killed Denver with in the playoffs after Game 4. Kobe went to the block (or mid post) on the weakside and then he picked them apart by passing to Pau on the weakside block (where Drew is now) or passing to LO who was either flashing to the FT line or executing a dive cut from that area. As I mentioned before, the spacing could be a bit better, but we have the horses to play this way (no other team can, so it’s not like we see this allignment a lot from other teams) and it creates match up nightmares for our opponents. Because really, do you single cover Kobe when he’s 10ft from the hoop where he’s almost automatic? Do you help off of Pau at the FT line where he can shoot with ease or dive for an easy layup/dunk? Do you help off Drew and then watch as he gobbles up lob passes? If anything, I want to see more of these sets and not just relegate Kobe to a perimeter wing. His game is too diverse and he’s too effective playing this style. Yes, we need a balance from him between the wing and the post. But I want him on the post too and don’t want him to abandon this aspect of his game.


  30. I loved the game last night. (had to record the 2nd half, due to being dragged to New Moon) but watched it after I got home. Dragging today at work tho..

    Pau looked great and he could have actually been better if his outside shot was dropping. But that will come. I really like the lineup with Farmar and Brown in the backcourt with either Kobe or Ron at the 3. It gets Jordan involved and he has been playing much better over the last few games.

    With Pau back I really hope Drew will be able to maintain his confidence. I hope Phil at least keeps his minutes in the 30 range. Last night he played 24. And I really think he gets down on himself when hes not out there. But of course he needs to do the little things to keep himself out there like rebound, defend and score within the offense. We will see. But overall its a good issue to have. I’m very excited to see what we can do from here.


  31. (some of you have said what I am about to say…but I have to say it anyway)

    I don’t think anyone should panic about Kobe and the other guards missing those 3’s. Also we shouldn’t worry about the spacing. We also shouldn’t worry about Andrew and his vision.

    This was the first game with Pau. Let’s watch this over the next few games and see how they all gel back together.

    Pau changes the make offensive positions of everyone and I think they were still maybe used to playing in their old positions (also worrying about getting offensive rebounds) so they will fall back into their natural position spacing the floor better….

    With the floor spaced better, they will all be in better offensive positions and the shots will start to fall…

    And because shots are falling from the perimeter the defense will have to honor them, creating that space in the lane for Andrew to find other people when he is defended well and wont force the shots as much.


  32. With Gasol back, the team doesn’t need Bynum as a scorer.

    But if he is willing to focus on rebounding and defense, and be the 3rd or 4th option on offense (which would still give him a fair amount of “touches”), they would be pretty much unstoppable.


  33. Darius,

    Great post.


  34. Re: “Black Hole” Bynum

    When the team passes the ball to Bynum in the low post they are giving him the ball to score. If he is doubled teamed he passes the ball out. If he is not initially doubled he makes his moves into the paint to score. When he does this that is when the other team send helps because if he passes the ball it will be called a three second violation almost every time. This is standard interior defense every team in the NBA plays. Bynum (most of the time) is making the right decisions in the post. And more so… until the last couple games where he looks like he is playing with dead legs, he is finishing very well in the paint. The guy flat out has been the best Center in the NBA so far this season. Now if you would like to talk about a real black hole we can talk about Kobe.


  35. This is slightly off-topic.

    Just a few minutes ago, on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, there was discussion about the criteria voters used to evaluate Cy Young candidates. One voter based his verdict on advanced stats, and nominated a pitcher no one else had voted for. This voter was able to substantiate his selection with data. Two other guests, ESPN “experts” respectfully poo-pooed his choice and methodology.

    When asked to substantiate their selections, they invoked traditional stats supplemented by vague methodologies.

    It just reminded me of how the mainstream media fails to hold itself to academic standards and to think critically about their subject matter more often than not. It’s disrespectful to the game to approach it in that manner. What’s worse is that these so-called experts dominate the scene.

    It’s a shame televised coverage of the nba isn’t very thoughtful. What passes for analysis is a picture of a shot chart and misleading statistics, and what passes for commentary is inane prattle, photoshop buffoonery, and pedestrian observations.

    And to tie this rant back to last night’s game, I’m glad Collins is taking his job seriously. You can tell he’s prepared and he’s able to provide context for his observations and insight. He’s not my ideal, but at least the effort is there.


  36. 32. Darius, that post was full of win 🙂
    It’s going to be a pleasure this season watching the team dominate. What team can beat our guys four games out of seven when we’re at full strength? I don’t see such a team for the forseeable future.


  37. Thanks for the observations, Zephid. Always useful. I agree with most everyone else (T Rogers, Burgundy, etc) that Bynum was gunning for stats (or at least shots) last night, almost as if he was trying to “establish dominance” as the go-to big man on the team. (Insecurity, anyone?) But once he gets used to Pau again (which could take a few games, as people have mentioned), I don’t expect many more sub-50% shooting and 0-assist games from Drew. (And for you fantasy guys, it’s also why I think Bynum is a nice buy-low candidate over the next week or so).


  38. Just to let you all know, I want Bynum to achieve. That said, the boy is injury prone, and when things don’t go his way, has a horrible attitude. You can see that he sulks at some point in every game. With Pau back he is just going to sulk more – his stats are going to be worse and his biggest goal is making the all star team. I am just saying the Lakers can get a lot of value out of him (trade for a real point guard), move fisher to the backup, and not force Laker fans to watch Vujacic on the floor ever again. I don’t understand why everyone is so fascinated with this guy.


  39. I love the L.A. Lakers.They are my favorite team.I drink, eat pizza and root.Right on!!! (Spokane,WA)


  40. Last name spelling.Love to drink,eat pizza and root for the Lakers.(Spokane,WA)


  41. Whatever the shortcomings you find in the Laker team, push them aside and live with the imperfect successes. The wins are still coming, and the Lakers are still atop the L.A. sandwich. No matter what, there will always be the hue and cry of the loquacious. Sit back, relax and enjoy one of the longest running success stories in NBA history … the Los Angeles Lakers.