Archives For December 2009

Happy New Year

Kurt —  December 31, 2009

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2010 is going to be a great year to be a Lakers fan. We want you to be there for all of it, so have fun but be careful out there. Don’t do anything crazy, like try to jump a car a couple hundred feet.

Thanks for making this site one of your homes on the Web. Happy New Year everyone.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  December 30, 2009

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I’m getting concerned about the Lakers defense.

That is what has pulled them through so far. Despite injuries and Bynum’s funk and and Kobe’s finger and Sasha’s shot going snowboarding with Radmanovic, the Lakers have kept winning because they had been at the top of the league defensively. But in this mini-swoon, that is what has gone away.

It is more than Ron Artest being gone. (By the way, I think Artest said, “I don’t recall” more in his 15-minute press conference last night than Ronald Regan even did.) Artest was there for Cleveland but Los Angeles’ defense wasn’t. The Lakers have gone to a more pressure defense on the wings using the big men they have healthy to protect the rim, but both ends of that have broken down in recent games. In the coming days (or by next week) I hope to have a more detailed breakdown.

This is fixable for sure. But that end of the floor is what I am watching more and more. It was the mantra here last year but it may be truer this year: The Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.

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Darius had this in the comments, and it echoes my thoughts about the growing “Kobe for MVP discussion.”

A couple of fun facts about MVP winners, Scoring Champions, and NBA Champions:

*Only three times in the past 15 years has the league MVP been on the team the won the NBA title: Shaq in the 1999-2000 seaon and Michael Jordan (twice) in the 1995-96 & 1997-98 seasons.

*Only two players in the last 20 years have won the scoring title and the NBA title in the same season. Michael Jordan did it 6 times and Shaq did it once (in his 1999-2000 MVP season).

My point is that the recent trend shows me that I don’t really care if Kobe wins either the MVP or the scoring title. I’d almost prefer that he doesn’t. We all know that Kobe (along with Carmelo and Lebron) one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. We also know that Kobe is one of the best players (along with Lebron) and one of the 2 or 3 most valuable players in the league. I don’t think he needs the hardware to justify his place in the game. If anything, the hardware that will justify his place in the game (not only for today, but for all-time and his legacy) it’s the Larry O’Brien trophy. Let him get a couple more of those and I’d be more than happy.

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I still miss Ronny Turiaf

pau
Records: Lakers 24-6 (1st in West) Warriors 9-21 (14th in West)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 107.3 (14th in league), Warriors 105.2 (19th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 100 (3rd in league) Warriors 110 (26th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Warriors: Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, Anthony Morrow, Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph

That picture of Pau scares me: But if you like it — or like to give yourself nightmares — you can own it. It is one of the many treasures Zach from Celtics Hub found available at the NBA Store, in Manhattan including a picture of Steve Nash, Serial Killer, right out of Dexter.

The Lakers Coming in: It’s a slump. Mini slump right now, but a slump. My first suggestion: Relax. This is not something to panic over. You had to know there would be one, that 72 was a silly dream that made a good media story line and nothing else. Titles are not lost in December games, what matters is that the Lakers figure out things — that they can’t take nights off on defense, that they have to run the triangle to get an offensive flow, to stop doing too much and start trusting teammates to make plays.

Last night, the Lakers failed on many of those counts. Bynum had a great first quarter then the team went away from him as the game wore on (and he was less active). Teams are (wisely) trying to use centers like Amare to pull Bynum away from the basket, but the other bigs are not rotating well and defending the rim. More Kobe is not the long term answer. Phil Jackson is not going to yell at this team, he is going to let them figure it out for themselves. Which means it may take a couple more games, but the lessons are more likely to stick.

Also, no Artest again tonight.

The Warriors Coming in: For a team that is in the bottom five in the league, you look at the Warriors roster and you see talent. Good talent. Talent you can win some games with.

Monta Ellis can flat-out score. On the dribble, with the jumper, half court or getting out and running, this guy can play. Then he is paired with Corry Maggette, someone who can also shoot the jumper but is more likel to take you off the dribble and draw the foul. He is in the Kobe/Wade class when it comes to drawing fouls. Anthony Randolph is capable of exploding at any point for a huge night. Add in the rookie Curry who can shoot the rock (40% from three this year) and Anthony Morrow and you have a lineup of guys who can score.

If the players are not living up to their talent, you have to start looking up the ladder.

Thing you should be reading: The Kamenetzky brothers new blog at ESPNLosAngeles.com. Also, Dave is rockin’ it. You know, for a guy who went to Syracuse.

Keys to game: This is a test of the Lakers discipline. More than the Suns, the Warriors pull you into playing their style, and you can’t do it. It is a Siren Call and you have to plug your ears, lash yourself to the mast and not get sucked in. You will see open jump shots 6 seconds into the shot clock, but you have to resist the urge to take them because you will get a better look later. The Celtics did not do this last night, they got sucked into the Warriors game, and the result was a rushed 25 turnovers and a loss. The same fate awaits the Lakers if they rush.

The Warriors create more turnovers than any other team in the league, it fuels their fast break offense. Rule number one against them is to control the ball, do not give it and the easy buckets away.

That is all part of controlling the tempo, the other way to do that is pound the ball inside. All game long, not just the first quarter then start running and gunning. It’s a 48 minute test of discipline. Ignore the 20-foot jumper they are daring you to take and get the ball near the rim.

Defensively, take away the easy baskets for Ellis and Maggette, make them give it up now and again and force others to create shots. Or force Maggette to create and pass. This will not work long term for the Warriors, the Lakers need to be focused and stick with the plan.

The Warriors are a terrible rebounding team. The Lakers should dominate the boards at both end, creating opportunities for put backs and taking away the second chance points.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start back at Staples, with Fox Sports and 710 ESPN radio, your usual hosts.

[picappgallerysingle id="3800274"]Otherwise known as Where Amazing Didn’t Happen At All.

After getting mauled by the bear that is the Cavaliers and gutting out a win against the Kings, the Lakers swoop into Phoenix to take in their third viewing of The Steve Nash Show. Will the Lakers rise above the ashes or Icarus their way to a scorching?

Artest remains out.

1st Quarter

11:46 – Pau hits a nice turn around jumper from the right block. Great to see him start with good lift in his legs. Pau seemed a bit taken by surprise by the intensity of the Kings’ big men.

10:58 – Lakers run an atrocious “fast” break off a turnover. No spacing and the suns clog the middle.

10:06 – Grant Hill = Speedster? Hill beat the lakers down the floor for an easy bucket. LAL 2, PHX, 6

9:28 – The Lakers have turned into the Washington Generals. Derek charges down the floor and shoots an airball from 5 feet against Amare. This game is full of rec league hallmarks. Jason Richardson airballs a wide open three on the ensuing possession. I want to throw my face through a plaster wall right about now.

6:42 – Kobe gets smacked on the hand and it falls off! Just kidding. He’s in a little pain but he’ll hit the free throws. Lakers are settling down and figuring out how to use their height. Pau got a nice offensive rebound on a missed free throw by Bynum. LAL 12, PHX 10.

5:49 – Bynum gets a three point play. Rumors of his hibernation are being debunked a little here. He’s finding his height useful here against the smaller Suns players. Who would have thunk it?

1:55 – Jared Dudley throws a post entry pass to Josh Powell. I bet he wishes he had ctrl+z available there. LAL 20, PHX 20

1:30 – Whoa! Ammo nails a nice looking threeball. Sign him up for the three point contest at all-star weekend! Okay, maybe not yet. But hitting the long ball is helpful in opening up the middle for the bigs. LAL 23, PHX 20.

0:00 – Steve Nash pays himself some royalties at the end of the first after throwing a patented left-handed pass from the top of the key to Lopez who gets the shooter’s bounce as the lights go red. LAL 23, PHX 25.

2nd Quarter

Lakers defense has been pretty active but a few mistakes and missed communication have led to some easy layups/dunks. They’ll need to tighten that up and continue to find ways to improve the offense.

11:15 – Louis Ahmandson rides his bike to the scorer’s table to check in. Almost immediately he gets to watch Academy Award winning acting by Channing Frye as he mimes a tall person being hit by a sledgehammer in the chest as Gasol backed him down.

10:27 – The bench is doing well here. And by well, I mean they are struggling mightily. More ctrl+z material as Channing Frye tries the tomahawk. With furious anger he throws the ball down it goes straight up. And over the backboard. Dunk Fail. LAL 23, PHX 32.

9:12 – Farmar gets his Ariza on by knocking the ball out of a passing lane, takes the ball to the hoop. But then, he gets his Lamar on and throws the ball out of bounds. Farmar had Mr. Fantastic (Shannon) running with him but threw it about 4 feet behind him. LAL 25, PHX 35.

8:12 – A couple minutes ago, Lamar had his hand smashed in between his crotch and Barbosa’s backside (don’t ask) and has some sprained fingers on his right hand. We’ll see if Kobe points to his own broken finger and tells Lamar to man up. LAL 27, PHX 39.

5:02 – Bynum is forced to hold down the bench due to foul trouble.

4:48 – Kobe threw up a wonderfully ugly airball. It’s easy to blame the finger here. That finger should be admonished. Has one entry ever said the word ‘finger’ so many times?

3:16 – Suns shooting 41% so far, and brick it up nicely here. Hard to talk too much trash. Lakers are shooting below 35%. LAL 38, PHX 48.

2:30 – Kobe reattached his finger to his hand and immediately stroked two jumpers. Just as we should remember to appreciate Lamar, of course we should not forget Kobe’s evolution as a player and LAL 43, PHX 48.

1:56 – Amar’e dunks the crap out of the ball. Too bad the ball didn’t get the memo. It bounces out past the three point line. He and Channing Frye work on designing membership cards. LAL 45, PHX 48.

0:10 – It turned into the Amar’e and Kobe show here at the end. Kobe has hit 10 of the Lakers last 12 points and Amar’e has the last 10. Why did anyone else even suit up tonight? LAL 50, PHX 54.

0:02 – Lakers take Kurt’s advice and make Steve Nash a scorer. He obliges by drawing a foul on DJ Mbenga under the hoop with 2 seconds to go. Dear Mbenga, you don’t need to jump to block the shot of a 36 year old 6’0” point guard with no vertical. Shoot, I wouldn’t need to jump to block it. LAL 50, PHX 56.

3rd Quarter

11:10 – Channing Frye hits a beautiful shot from outside. He “nets” two points only, however, because his toes were on the line. LAL 50, PHX 58.

10:00 – Lakers and Suns are “hot” here to open. The teams have combined for only two misses in 8 shots. Mr. Nash had an unorthodox fading jumper from the wing. LAL 54 PHX 64.

8:58 – I enjoyed this possession. I’d characterize it like a nice red wine. With enough space and air, the offense worked well. Pau drew the attention of multiple defenders and Lamar took advantage by cutting to the middle. LAL 58, PHX 64.

7:37 – Adam Morrison looking like a seasoned veteran. Pau dishes the ball off to him block to block after Ammo recognizes he has Steve Nash in the post. It would have been fun to see Adam throw down a hammer there. I’m not sure he’s capable but I would be inordinately entertained. LAL 62, PHX 67.

5:15 – En tu Ojo! Steve Nash drills a three straight down the tube over the outstretched tentacle of The Spaniard. LAL 64, PHX 73.

4:51 – Derek loses his cool a little. After a blocking foul he pushes Nash out of the way.  Good call. Nash hits the T. LAL 66, PHX 74.

3:58 – Lakers are reaching vaunted heights here. They’re going to give up a four point play. Channing Frye hits a three and fisher gets called for a foul underneath.

3:39 – A nice little run here for the Suns (if you’re a suns fan) as they are now up by a whole bunch after some sloppy play and a Jason Richardson three pointer. LAL 66, PHX 82.

2:48 – Lakers try and stop an 11-0 run as Kobe misses with his left but Odom tips in the putback. LAL 68, PHX 84.

1:18 – Kobe wins the battle with Frye but his face loses.

0:56 – OOOooo. Amar’e absolutely demolishes the rim with a dunk. He just ran by Bynum and then threw it THROUGH the basket. Actually reminiscent of Dwight Howard’s superman dunk a couple years ago.

0:00 – Kobe gets the ball (UGLY miss by “shooter” Channing Frye) with 6 seconds to go and races down the court. Unfortunately he’s not 19 anymore and his layup is blocked. Great hustle by three Suns players to get back and contest it. LAL 77, PHX 89.

4th Quarter

11:55 – Chants of “Beat LA” rain down. Jared Dudley hits a nice corner three. Lakers are looking a little umm..sad out there. LAL 77, PHX 92.

10:39 – Dear Sasha,  I’ll send you a postcard from the rim. Please give my best to my wake. I’ve left it for you. Regards, Leandro Barbosa. In two steps Barbosa had him beat so bad Sasha gave up and just went down to the offensive end.

9:31 – Timeout called. For those of you who believe in The Secret, now would be a good time to start Secreting or whatever it’s called. LAL 84, PHX 98.

9:21 – Jeebs! Dudley just rakes Bynum across the wrist and the refs call a jump ball. I’m not sure how that qualifies as a jump ball. It gets more awesome. Dudley has to go against Bynum but can’t outjump him. So he does what anyone who’s ever gone against a giant does. He waits for Bynum to tap it backwards and then intercepts it. I’m not sure what the rule is but the refs let it go. I’m not sure that the Lakers can complain about the refs missing two calls when they have barely shown up tonight.

6:40 – After a Dudley three and a Barbosa jumper it’s time to shut this thing down before I stab myself in the pancreas with a macbook. If the Lakers make some sort of miraculous recover, I shall make sure to update and credit to you Secreters. LAL 89, PHX 108

Happy New Year everyone! Don’t take this one too hard. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  December 28, 2009

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Records: Lakers 24-5 (1st in West) Suns 19-12 (5th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.3 (14th in league) Suns 114.4 (1st in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.3 (1st in league) Suns 110.8 (27th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Channing Frye

The Lakers Coming in:No Ron Artest tonight, he was not cleared by doctors to play. This is a head injury, nothing to mess around with long term (just ask the NFL… what, they say nothing is wrong? Riiiiiight.). Get Ron Ron better, that’s what matters.

This means the Lakers will go extra big with Odom starting against the small Suns (who play well at home).

Great post from Kevin over at TrueHoop on how much you can really take from a regular season loss:

If I’m the Lakers, I want to use this loss to the Cavs to better understand why my team entered Sunday night tied for 15th in the NBA with the Houston Rockets in offensive efficiency rating. How can a team as long and skilled in the post as the Lakers have this much trouble finishing at the rim? Is there something amiss with the spacing, even though the unit operates in a system that thrives on space? Are the Lakers becoming needlessly impatient trying to pound the ball inside instead of drawing defenders to the perimeter, which would get them cleaner looks underneath? Addressing these questions over the next 50 games seems like a very doable exercise.

The Suns Coming in: After a hot start to the season, the Suns have cooled off and are a pedestrian 4-6 in their last 10 games.

West All Star staring center Amare Stoudemire (and you know that grates on Bynum) continues to play well, averaging 22 a game in the last 10 shooting 54% from the floor, while adding 10 rebounds. Steve Nash continues to play amazingly well, also averaging 22 a game in the last 10 but shooting 64% (eFG%) and 40.9% from three. Plus, he can still pass as well as anyone who has played the game.

Outside of those two however the Suns contributions have been less consistent. Channing Frye can shoot the three, Dudley has his moments, but overall the shooting of the Suns has slumped off. And when you don’t play good defense, you can’t have shooting slumps.

The Suns will have the lightning quick Leandro Barbosa back tonight.

Blogs and links: A couple good Suns blogs out there, Valley of the Suns and Bright Side of the Suns.

Keys to game: In the Lakers two previous wins this season over the Suns, they were at Staples catching Phoenix in the second game of a back-to-back. That will not be the case tonight, and I expect this one to be closer.

The Lakers still know the secrets to beating the Suns. Just to recap in short:

• Pound the ball inside on offense, and have the bigs run the floor and get good deep position. If the Suns double, make them pay.

• Let Steve Nash dribble and be a jump shooter but try to cut off the penetration where he kicks out to an open Hill or Richardson for the three — if Nash scored 20+ but the other Suns do not get involved offensively they are not as good a team.

• Do not run with them. Take layups and attack the basket on fast breaks, but no PUJITs. See point number one about pounding the ball inside.

• Do not let Leandro Barbosa get going. That means cutting off the outlet pass to him — if you let him get the ball and a head of steam to half court you are not going to catch or contain him. Stop him before he starts.

• Defend the three-point line.

Where you can watch: 6: pm start, you can watch on Channel 9 here in LA and listen on 710 ESPN radio.