Can Anyone In the West Challenge?

Kurt —  January 14, 2010

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Watching the Lakers play the best of their non-Gasol games last night, the question going through my head became: Can any of the teams in the West really challenge the Lakers? Can any of them keep the Lakers out of the Finals? (Of course, we are assuming a relatively healthy Lakers team in the playoffs, serious injuries change the equation for any team.)

Right now, I don’t think so. Denver and San Antonio could push the Lakers pretty hard, but I’m not sure they have all the pieces to beat them through seven games. But with the trading deadline approaching in a month, will one of the contenders in the West make a move?

Let’s take a look at the West, the teams and what they could do (helped in great part by Kevin Pelton’s fantastic post on sellers and buyers at Basketball Prospectus):

San Antonio: To me, this is the second best team in the Western Conference, something I expected before the season but took a while to blend and build this season. (Of course, seemingly every year we write the Spurs off early while they aim to peak late.) I look at it this way: The Lakers are outscoring their opponents by 6.5 points per 100 possessions this season — San Antonio is at 7.1 (nobody else in the West is close to those spreads). Injuries and schedule factor into that simple number, but the fact is the Lakers and Spurs have started to distance themselves from the rest of the West.

The Spurs have clearly made a commitment to go for it now, this is a small market team over the tax line and not backing away. If they could get another quality player on the wing (especially defensive minded) or more depth for the front line (to help them bang on the Lakers big front line) they may jump at it. And they have the expiring contracts to do it: Matt Bonner, Michael Finley and Roger Mason are all expiring deals. While that would cut into the Spurs depth, they might make a move for the right key player.

Denver: They are physical, have a great home court, and pushed the Lakers hard last year. However, they are essentially the same team as last year and they know they don’t match up with the Lakers in the post for seven games.

Denver has not been quiet about it — they want to add another big. All they have to do it is a $3.7 million trade exception if they don’t want to cut into the core of their roster (and they don’t). Can they add a big for depth — even a loaner — for that price?

Dallas: They see themselves as close — they do have the second best record in the West — but serious questions remain if they could get out of the second round of the playoffs, let alone their match up issues with the Lakers. Last night was just another piece of evidence that the Lakers have their number.

The piece they have to dangle is the contract of Eric Dampier — he is owed the rest of $10 million this year and has a voidable $13 million for next year. Would somebody trade for him for the rest of this year, giving up something of quality, as opposed to doing it next summer (the contract becomes voidable July 1)? Dallas will try.

Houston: They are a scrappy, fighting team of role players that will make whomever they face in the playoffs work hard, but likely they cannot win. Certainly not beyond a first-round upset.

Unless they turn Tracy McGrady’s deal into an actual star player. I can’t see good reasons for Toronto to trade Bosh to them, for example, but Houston would love it. And if they can pull off the steal, suddenly this does become a very dangerous team. What they lack is the go-to guy at the end of the clock and the end of games. With that guy they are a threat.

Kurt

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152 responses to Can Anyone In the West Challenge?

  1. Go ahead and talk trades in this thread, but this is not designed to be a discussion of Lakers moves (still don’t think there will be any) or discussion of the Eastern Conference.

  2. Also, off this topic, but it will be the Lakers discussion point of the day a lot of places:

    http://deadspin.com/5447152/hennessy-dog-crap-and-a-touching-glimpse-into-the-head-and-home-of-ron-artest?

  3. The Denver people are talking like they are a main contender to acquire Brendan Haywood.

  4. Haywood for whom? That wouldn’t scare me anywehere near as much as Jamison to the Cavs.

    I think Denver, Dallas and the Spurs all have the potential to beat the Lakers, but they’d each need a lot to go just right.

    Otherwise the Lakers are the team most likely to keep them out of the finals. I do think they have some more to prove before they should be considered the odds on favorites to win IN the finals.

  5. Moves that would concern me, not saying that any of these are plausible, but they would adjust the western conference landscape to the point where the I would be worried as a Laker fan:

    Bosh to Houston, Jamison to Denver, Butler to Dallas or San Antonio, Ariza to San Antonio, Boozer to Houston

    If the Lakers found a way to get Calderon, I’d be stoked. My only disappointment with Ron so far is we were able to spread the floor better with Trevor. If our PG core had another solid 3pt shooter, it would help a lot.

  6. The one outside team that worries me is the Thunder. They seem to be the type of team that can pull off the lower-seed upset.

    I agree about the Lakers standing pat. There are too many injuries, and Bynum has shown he can be a solid contributor if the staff and Bynum can figure out how to incorporate his skills with Gasol.

    Houston won’t get Bosh, because if they could convince Toronto, it would be a foolish wash and they could get a better return than TMac.

    I just don’t know what to make of Bynum’s “teasers.”

  7. Don’t forget the Blazers, they have parts to spare (as Rudy, Travis O. and Batum come back from injury soon) and they want a big man. I’ve heard speculation about Brandon Bass, Goritat or Haywod.

  8. Just checked out the 2 man game’s reaction to last night. If a Laker Blog had written this it’d be an example of nauseating homerism:

    http://www.thetwomangame.com/

    (I don’t mean anything by pointing this out, but my mind reads that url as “that woman game” every time I look at it)

  9. I would say Brendan Haywood going to the Nuggets would be very dangerous for the Lakers as those are the kinds of players Pau Gasol has trouble scoring on.

    Before last night I thought the Mavs would give the Lakers the most trouble in the playoffs. But I think a lot of what happens will depend on the seeding. The ideal scenario would be for the Lakers to not have to play the Spurs or Nuggets until the WCF. Having to play both consecutively would be tough.

  10. Question:

    Is there any actual substance to the Hinrich rumors, or are they just an internet invention?

    San Antonio is the team to worry about, IMO. Denver, maybe. But SA is the main obstacle in the west, unless Bosh is traded to Dallas or Houston.

  11. Murphy or Jamison going to the Cavs would put them over Boston IMHO

  12. Interesting read, JD. And an interesting contrast to the Spurs nation reaction to that game (what little I saw of it)… like their announcers they acted as if they’ve never seen their team win a big game before. That Mavs blogger has the guts to appreciate a good opponent. Greatness can respect each other.

    (And your brain is simply trying to improve the URL for you. :) )

  13. Chownoir (was J) January 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    #5 Travis. Although Ariza shot an amazing 48% from the arc in the playoffs last year, his reg season was substandard at only 32%

    Ron’s so far is shooting 39% from the arc despite starting the season 3-13 in the first three games combined.

    Of course Ron still has to show he can keep up the production during the playoffs. What I loved about Ariza last year was his knack for the big play at the right moment, whether it be a steal or a big 3.

    #6 DY, I still think Bynum is young and learning. Needs time on the court with Pau. Also, not a lot of mention has been given to the fact that he had repiratory problems and knee irriation right when Pau came back. He was dealing with a lot of things there.

  14. Kurt-I gotta disagree with you about the Spurs. I just dont think that they matchup well with us in a 7 game series, and I don’t think they will be around to see us in the WCF. I think they are 5-13 against .500 teams, and I just don’t think this is the type of Spurs team that has been their model. The great Spurs teams always had a legit Center (Robinson, Mohammed, Oberto, Nestorvich) to relive pressure from Duncan and dominate the glass. They just don’t have the size to matchup with us, Denver, maybe even Dallas. Also, they overshot on R-Jeff once they lost the Vince sweepstakes. Vince Carter, or getting Maggette a couple years back, this is what they needed on the perimeter. Now Mason and Hill make up for what R-Jeff lacks, but overall, I’d put them behind Denver, Dallas and possibly Phoenix

  15. Is there anything behind the Bynum for Bosh rumor?

  16. I know that they’ve lost 2 centers, but POR in playoff series would still scare me. They will be like HOU last year in that while they might not beat us in seven game playoff series, but they will make us work for at least 6 – 7 games. I’m sure the Lakers can beat POR with focused play, but POR’s solid team defense and the intelligent play of Roy will cause us a lot of trouble. With Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez returning, they have athletes and shooters to give us trouble with their defense on Kobe, and Aldridge’s game seems taylored to exploit our weakness which is guarding bigs who can shoot from outside.

    That said, SA is still our biggest threat.

  17. Portland to me is still a year away, that’s why I didn’t include them. But they will be a tough out.

    Baby Huey, the Bynum/Bosh thing was not created out of thin air. There has been a brief discussion of it (maybe more now) in the Lakers front office, but also know that everyone thought it was a long shot they just wanted to explore it a little.

  18. The Spurs are going to be second in the west, and may challenge the lakers for first in the west. The team is starting to come together and they are starting to run their offense again. They veterans who have been to the finals (TD, Parker, Ginobili, R.J.), a great supporting cast (McD, Finley, Hill, Ratliff) and a coach that keeps the focussed.

    To me that’s the biggest thing is the coaching. You need a coach to get a team to play at a championship level. And in the last few years, there’s only been one anomaly to that (the Celtics and Doc Rivers). Since 2000, the coaches to win the championship are PJ, Pop, Brown, Riley and Doc Rivers.

    That’s why I don’t see Denver doing more than Western Conference finals. George Karl isn’t the most disciplined coach in the league.

    Maybe I am giving the coaches too much credit, but they seem to be very important to win championships.

    And thankfully, the Lakers have a fairly good head coach.

  19. I think if Portland, Dallas or Houston gets Bosh that would be a potential problem for the Lakers.

  20. Kurt and ray

    I know I’m always talking about trades but you can trade away your advantage. Here is an excellent piece on Orlando who I feel traded their Lamaresque player advantage (Hedo) to go traditional/ordinary (Carter). True Vince is a better player, he just isn’t a better fit.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AuXfM00jL75NYAWnlqh4Kaq8vLYF?slug=mc-magic011310&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

  21. Does anyone else here wonder about the timing of this post?

    The Lakers haven’t been playing up to their high standards of late; they’re banged up; the bench has only shown a few signs of steadiness; and we’ve seen numerous signs that this team is lacking something special, whatever it is that separates a good team from a great one.

    Yet we’re now daring to question who can beat L.A. in the West?

    I’m sure I’ll be blasted as a cynic or naysayer, and that may be true.

    But I see a team who’s best player has not been close to himself with injuries. Its second-best player has missed nearly one-third of the season with hamstring injuries; the No. 3 player hasn’t shown any consistency, especially when playing with No. 2; the fourth scoring option is up and down on any given night; the point guard is slowing with age; the big off-season addition can’t jump four inches off of the floor; and the bench has essentially been limited to a recent stretch of solid play by a guy fans were until recently ready to run out of town.

    They’ve been blown out at home by Cleveland; blown out in Denver and San Antonio and Phoenix and the decimated leftovers of the Blazers; folded late against the Clippers; and needed last-second shots to beat the Bucks, Heat and Kings. The schedule has been home-loaded at the start of the season as well.

    They’re 5-3 this month, and we’ve yet to see that “statement” victory that we saw a year ago against Boston on Christmas, or in Cleveland right after Bynum went down.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers have had injuries and there is still time to win it all.

    But what is it others have seen so far this year that suggests to you, “The west will be the Lakers for the taking?”

    Is it just a case of despite the Lakers’ flaws, the other teams have issues too?

  22. Kurt

    The Bynum Bosh thing was something I brought up well before Vescey. We discussed it here weeks ago. Without the BYC, it made financial since, but again it would have traded away our size advantage and we would be left with two starting power fowards and no true starting center.

  23. Re: Clev. getting Murphy/Jamison, I don’t know if getting salary cap relief is enough for teams to get rid of these quality players, especially to an in-division rival (Pacers) and in-conference foe (Wizards). I’d think the Wizards would rather trade to Western conference teams rather than bolster their as of late historic rivals.

    I do think the Lakers will for the most part stand pat. Disrupting the Farmar/Brown backcourt now would be tough. Also, doesn’t like Bosh would go to Port/Dallas/Houston because they have little to offer in return for such a big piece.

  24. @Chris J.

    Cuz we are lakers fans.

  25. 13) Obviously Trevor’s 3pt% is affected by the fact that he’s not wide open due to double teams to Kobe anymore.

    Ron, on the otherhand, while nice from distance, can’t carry the void left by Trevor, Kobe’s damaged finger, and Fish’s slump. Not having enough 3pt threats, in my opinion, is the root cause of both our offensive woes, and our bench woes.

  26. Would if Dallas decides to roll the dice and trade to fill their 2 big holes: sg and ctr? Rip Hamilton and Emeka Okafor for their expirings/draft picks/young pieces/cash considerations? I don’t think that’s completely out of reach. I know New Orleans can breath a little better financially (luxury tax) after the Hilton Armstrong trade, but what if Dallas offers to ease their financial worries for next year too (which they currently are going to be paying more money than this year). Wouldn’t that be a scary team? Okafor, Dirk, Marion, Hamilton, Kidd. Then coming off the bench: Terry, Najera, Gooden, and maybe something else back from N.O., like Mo Pete or James Posey.

  27. Nice summery Chris J, but those are dangerous waters you’re treading, at least around here.

    I don’t think it’s fair to call Lakers fans spoiled because they want trades to shore up the PG/Bench situation.

    I for one have had it with our bench. They are still riding on the coattails of a nice run they had more than TWO YEARS AGO. I mean, how long are we going to give them? Consistency from Bynum would be nice too. Basically, everything Chris said.

  28. Dallas just does not have the size to match up with the Lakers. Since they have no inside presence (Dirk can go inside a little bit but he is primarily and perimeter player) they can be beaten by forcing them into long twos and challenging any 3 pt shots. The Lakers have done a great job of this in the last two games (and pretty much all year long to everyone with a few exceptions).

    Denver also does not have the size to match up with the Lakers inside, so it would take a huge series from Melo and JR being super hot for them to beat the Lakers in a 7 game series.

    SA would pose the biggest threat if they are healthy, especially if Duncan plays like he did in the last game.

  29. Chris J/GSX, I would simply ask this: As currently constructed, do you think any of the teams in the West can beat a healthy Lakers team in a seven game series. This post was not about Cleveland or Boston or the Finals, simply the West. While the Lakers have not played great, I still don’t see who in the West beats them if healthy. Do you all see it differently?

  30. j.d. Hastings

    thetwomansgame article was a little depressing even though it lauded us.

  31. Ariza/Artest: Ariza was good in the regular season with the lakers but had a great post season.

    Artest has been consistent so far in the regular season. Started slow, had a set back with the head injury. But still has been really consistent.

    Fisher has gotten worse every month. I’ve always been a proponent of decreasing his minutes to about 20. But now, I’m like play fisher at most 15 minutes a game . His defense is atrocious most of the time. Once he gets screened he can’t get back to contest a shot because he’s to slow and to un-athletic. I really really don’t want to bash fisher, but his situation is pretty bad and only getting worse. Luckily farmar and brown have play well almost every time phil has called their number.

    I know kobe won’t sit vs. the clips but I hope he doesn’t play more than 25 minutes. He should basically play the first quarter sit until the 3rd quarter. Hopefully the lakers are blowing the clippers out so he won’t have to play much or any of the 4th quarter.

    The Lakers just need to get healthy and establish a rhythm again. I have a feeling it’s going to happen starting tomorrow. Payback against the clips. Then the magic on monday followed by cleveland and a long road trip. The Lakers play extremely well when they have something to prove. Well they have a lot prove. And with gasol and walton back, Kobe’s shooting touch back and his back back, the bench playing well, the Lakers will respond.

  32. Am I way off when I say that our bench issues, PG issues, and offensive fluidity issues can all be fixed by adding a PG that’s a deep threat?

    Calderon could put the starting PG question to rest for good, spread the floor out to take advantage of our 3 best options thriving in the post, and put some vets who will take care of the ball on our bench (which reminds me, Farmar was awesome in the 4th last night but choosing to force the ball with less than 2 minutes to go, which lead to turnovers, was EXACTLY why Fish is the starter and exactly why our bench is so hot & cold, Farmar just doesn’t know when to slow down).

  33. Chownoir (was J) January 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    #25, Travis, that’s Trev’s stats from LAST year when he was with the Lakers. By any objective measure, Ron is shooting better from the arc so far this year than Trev did last year during the regular season.

    I agree that the team needs another shooter. I’ve been saying that for a while now. But I think you’re barking up the wrong tree if you’re stating that Ron is doing worse than Trev did if you’re comparing Ron’s shooting this year to Trev’s shooting last year.

  34. You guys hear that Buss paid for Kiffin’s buyout?

  35. I’d love for LA to get their hands on Milwaukee Buck Kurt Thomas. I think he’d help any of the above mentioned teams in a real and meaningful way.

    You can never have too many solid big men.

  36. Didn’t the 00-01 Lakers go like, 56-26 that year and only finished #2 in the West? Let’s take a look at their lineup in the playoffs…

    Starters:
    Shaquille O’Neal
    Kobe Bryant
    Derek Fisher
    Horace Grant
    Rick Fox

    Rotation bench players:
    Robert Horry
    Brian Shaw

    Bit players:
    Ron Harper
    Devean George
    Tyronn Lue
    Mark Madsen

    Isn’t that team now considered one of the greatest teams ever? Why? Because they dominated in the playoffs, when it counted.

    Now let’s look at some of their regular season schedule.

    They lost their second game of the season at home to Utah. They had back-to-back losses early in the season including a double digit loss to rival San Antonio. They had a 33 point beatdown handed to them by the Sonics as well as a handful of double digit losses by this point during that season. After 39 games, they were 26-13.

    So yea, it doesn’t really matter at all how we play now; all that matters is how we play in the playoffs.

  37. I still don’t see who in the West beats them if healthy. Do you all see it differently?

    _______

    You didn’t ask me, but, no, with the caveat that I think the Spurs as presently constituted MIGHT be able to do it. I think people (in general) are underrating that team a bit. They are kepping TD’s and Ginobil’s minutes down; in playoff mode, they may well be very dangerous.

    That said, if I had to bet on such a series, my money would be on the Lakers.

    Of course, at least one Western contender will undoubtedly make a big move.

  38. My personal desire for Hinrich as an eventual replacement for Fish is not based upon trying to catch up to anyone else. I feel that when healthy, we are the best team in the NBA. As such, teams have to play to our level or adjust to us in order to beat us.

    I still would love to see our team functioning as best as possible. We have weaknesses, namely Fish and our bench, that are areas of concern. We will not trade Fish and anyone who thinks that we will is sorely mistaken. He is a Laker Warrior and he will not be traded. It is not because he is indespensable, it is because what he does for Kobe. He is the only player on the team who can corral Kobe when he goes on his tangits. He (being Fish) runs the offense flawlessly and would be a great mentor to someone equally as intelligent and able. Therein lies the rub.

    Farmar and Brown are good back-ups but neither runs the offense correctly. Farmar is shoot first point and Brown (though learning) just gets rid of the ball as quickly as possible in order to avoid making a mistake.

    We have an ok bench with:

    Brown/Sasha as back-up points and shooting guards,

    Luke as back-up three,

    Lamar as back-up four, and

    Mbenga as your third string center

    We are OK. We do need to add depth. Roger Mason would be perfect but that will never happen. Anthony Randolph is gone for the next two months with an ankle injury. So adding Hinrich by only subtracting Morrison and Farmar is paramount. Getting an athletic player to play defense would be great. Maybe even calling up Chinemelu Elonu might even help. Heck, where is Tony Gaffney for that matter.

  39. I know this might be crazy but I think Portland have a better chance of beating us than those four teams. They’re curse to the point that I think it is possible so let hope they’re not at number 8 at the end of the year.

  40. 00-01 Lakers

    If Fisher shoots 51.5% on triples in the playoffs this year as he did in ’01, then, yeah, I see a repeat. ;-

    Trivia time:

    Who was the leading scorer per 36 minutes on the 2001 Lakers as per Basketball Reference?

  41. The monkey

    The portland curse, I wouldn’t worry about it to much come playoff time if it happens. Just as the lakers can’t win in Portland, Portland can’t win in L.A. In addition, the playoffs its a whole different game, different atmosphere, and Portland will not be able to handle the pressure and Kobe will actually attempt to defend Brandon Roy. When Kobe defends, boy he defends.

  42. I have to say that I agree with Chris J in the fact that what has LA done this year that affords them to be the favorite. On paper LA is the favorite, but basketball is played on the court and not on notebook paper. It seems this year, with the exception of last night, LA hasnt shown the focus and will. If you take last years team, LA lost to some teams that they shouldnt have, but those were teams we were not going to see in the playoffs. This year we are not losing to those same bottom feeder teams, but are losing to teams that we will see in a future playoff scenario. Thats what has made me the most uneasy about the team this year. The lackadasical attitude towards games againgst the good teams has to be concerning in some form. A mental edge is the key to a succesful season, if other good teams feel that they can beat us then it takes away the mental advantage that LA could be gaining during the season. The mental mistakes Denver,Rockets, and the Magic made at the end of close game s in the playoffs was the pressure of having LA where they wanted them, but mentally not being strong enough to put them away in crunch time. LA is losing that edge as of right now, who knows maybe last nights game will be the signature win for the rest of the season. In the next couple of weeks LA’s performance will have to speak for them, not the names on the back of the purple and gold uniforms.

  43. @Kurt

    Denver scares me. They’re tough at home, Hilario is a good center, CB has been through the wars before, and they have a guy who can score point-for-point with Kobe. If Kobe’s not at 100 percent, Melo may even be better at this point in time.

    I like the 2000-01 comparison Zephid raises. Hopefully we see something similar this year. But in 2001, keep in mind that they were without a point guard until March when Fish finally returned from injury. He galvanized that lineup and they rolled from then on.

    What’s going to similarly galvanize the Lakers this year? The only thing we can realistically expect is good health, but even that’s iffy.

    I don’t doubt L.A. can win the west, perhaps even the Finals. But my point was so far this season, I have a lot more concerns than confidence. Hopefully that will change as time goes on.

  44. Sanchez, I think all teams lose their edge in the off-season. LA is just a lot slower to get it back this year then they were last year.

    They’ll get it. If they weren’t still capable of finding that drive, that edge, and the necessary focus to continue to execute and perform when they have to, they would have lost in Dallas last night.

    I’m not happy with how our season has been so far, but I’m not worried. We just need to get healthy.

  45. I still believe that Bosh would be even better fit, as we would be much more mobile and better suited to defend the PnR since they can come out and trap better that with Drew who sometimes I see is reluctant to chase the screener if it’s a high pick. I checked this trade and it seems to be good for us and the other teams:

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ygckx6v

  46. How about Courtney Lee? He’d make a great addition to San Antonio or LA.

    The Lakers could use their trade exceptions to absorb the contracts of both Lee(Vlad Rad TE) and Jarvis Hayes(Mihm TE).

    In addition, the Lakers would trade Farmar and Ammo for Trenton Hassel and Keyon Dooling. Hassel’s contract expires this season, and Dooling’s contract is only partially guaranteed for $500K next season.

    The incentive for the Nets is that they trim their payroll by enough to get under the luxury tax. It will cost LA around $6M more this season because of the additional salaries.

    San Antonio could offer to take on Kris Humphries additional year by trading Michael Finley. In a separate deal they trade Theo Ratliff for Courtney Lee.

  47. We were a E. Dampier free throw away from losing that game. It still came down to Kobe taking our last three shots( the first two missed so bad, I was mad when he took the last one) and everyone standing around and watching. We hadnt done that the whole game and then went back to LBK/DBK in the final minutes, when A. Bynum was having a field day on Dampier the entire night. KB was playing maybe at 50% last night and teamates were still scared to take charge of the situation. Its just the whole team( minus #24) needs to grow a pair and not be scared of the moment.

  48. Some trade basics. First, according to my conversations with Larry Coon, despite what the Trade Machine allows you cannot use a Trade Exception in combination with other players or other trade exceptions. If you have a trade exception, you can only use it for a player of that value, not as part of a package.

    Second, no offense Louis, but three team deals almost never happen for good reason. They are too complex, too many teams and agents and players to make happy. It’s fun to create them but they are totally unrealistic. In your example, why would Houston give up quality players to get cap space next year? They want a star player, not to get rid of a bunch of role players for cap room. They want to move the big drains on their salary (McGrady) not Battier.

    And how did I know this thread would come back around to Lakers trades.

  49. I admit that I didn’t see the game except for the last minute of it. However, I still feel I can make the argument that if the team as a whole had not play well up until that point, Kobe’s shot would not have mattered nearly as much.

    I agree that there needs to be less of this mindless deferring to Kobe, even more now that he’s injured, what I was trying to say and still stick with is that the ability and capacity for winning it all is there. It just needs to stand proud and stop being intimidated. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think we have lost all our chances of winning the trophy again this year. We just need to work at it.

  50. To me, each team presents a different problem for us while also having some sort of pitfall when facing the Lakers.

    *The Spurs do not have the size. Their best line ups either have Blair next to Duncan or have Jefferson playing PF. Against a Pau/Byum front line, that will not be enough. That said, they have all of the ingredients to give the Lakers problems. Duncan is a monster this season. Pop has been limiting his minutes to keep him fresh for the post season. Parker is still one of the elite finishing guards in the league and is a killer on penetration on the P&R, in isolation, and in the open court. Manu, while not quite the player he was several years ago, is still quite capable of turning a game around (and one game may be the difference between a series win and a loss). You add to that enough capable shooting (Mason, Hill, even Finley – if hot) and they have the type of team that can win the title. In the end, I still like our big front line tag-teaming Duncan and Kobe against their wing defenders, but the Spurs are legit.

    *Denver has the size, Billups, and Melo. But, are they smart enough? Are they savvy enough? Last season, Denver had an upper hand in the series against us. Then, they literally threw it away. Ariza’s steals and really dumb fouls took Denver out of a series that they could have won had they showed more poise and played smarter ball. Has any of this changed? Will Karl make the right decisions this time around? Last year, he doubled Kobe and then had to watch #24 pick them apart with passes to cutters and over the top of a sagging defense where we made them pay with more penetration or wide open jumpshots. Let’s just say I’m not yet convinced. Denver *is* a really good team. But they’ll be relying heavily on Kenyon Martin and JR Smith in any series against us – two streaky players that have not proven to be the most heady guys. Plus, and this may seem blasphemous to some, but I still have questions about Billups. Yes, he’s been to 5 or 6 straight conference Finals. But he’s only been to 2 Finals and has one ring. That’s a little Buffalo Bills-ish to me.

    *Dallas does not have the horses to play with us. Dirk is amazing but he’s their only reliable player. They need the 2004 JKidd and Marion. They need the contract year Dampier. They need the Josh Howard that was healthy and not the one that is always nursing an ailment. We have too many match up advantages over them. Even if Terry plays out of his mind and turns a game or two in their favor, they don’t have enough, as constituted to play with us for an entire series.

    I don’t take any other team seriously. And in the end, I don’t think any of those teams mentioned can beat us. Have we played our best ball this season? No. So what makes anyone think that our best won’t be good enough? Are there really questions on whether or not we can summon our best? – because I don’t have those questions.

  51. Louis and Kurt

    Louis too much player upheaval. There is no way the Lakers are going to try and acclimate 5 new players to the triangle.

    Kurt you did say there could be trade talks.

    Denver is a threat!!! They pushed us last year and they will again this year. Artest is a better option the Ariza on Anthony but Artest will not make the same athletic plays Ariza made for us to win. We need another bench player capable of doing some of the same things.

    Portland may be a year away, but they too are a threat. What they have is a team willing to run up and down the court and make us play at their tempo. We have no answer for their high jumping 2’s and 3’s. Nor do we have an answer for Miller or Bayless. We lucked out by not having to face them last year.

    San Antonio is less of a threat because, if both teams are at full strength, they can not match up against us. Bynum and Duncan are close enough, no one matches Gasol or Kobe. They win the bench matchup, but our bench with Luke is close enough to win it for us. They would not win more than two games in a series.

  52. I’m not sure I agree with Denver being the same team as last year. I think Ty Lawson and Afflalo are underrated additions. Lawson is more potent against us than most teams in the league, because we all know how we struggle with his type. I thought Afflalo did as good a job on Kobe earlier this year as I’ve seen anyone do. He could find a career as a great perimeter stopper. He’s a huge improvement over Jones, their weak link last year, and takes a big burden off Melo defensively. If we’re at our best I don’t think they can win, but we so rarely play at our potential it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see Denver in the finals.

    I never underestimate SA because of their history, but right now, I think Denver is the bigger threat.

    I can see what Chris J is saying. I wasn’t sure I read the title of this post right at first, considering that we’ve been limping so much as of late. I don’t doubt we’re the best Western team if healthy, I was just a little surprised to see this post at this particular time (when we’re clearly hurting). I think that’s all he’s saying, it’s a little incongruous with how much of Lakers nation feels right now.

    51 – Read the first comment. This was designed for trade talks involving other Western teams, not the Lakers.

    Mimsy – I can’t find the quote, but what you just said is exactly what Kobe expressed last night. He said something like “It’s about f’n time (the others started being aggressive).” Completely agree.

  53. @Kurt

    I agree that 3 team trades are way harder to orchestrate since there are too many different interests in play. Regarding HOU, I thought that having Ariza kind of makes Battier redundant and viceversa if they can go after a good free agent in the summer to complement Yao.

    Also the trade exceptions on the one I set up can be done as separate operations. Since I’ve also read on Larry Coon’s blog that trade exceptions cannot be separated or added to existing trades to balance payroll.

    And just to come back to the original topic of your post, I believe the biggest threat to the Lakers are the Lakers. Look at what happened with the Rockets last year, we seem to lose focus when the challenge is not big enough.

    Aside from that I would rank them like this:

    1. Denver, needs 1 more big guy to throw since our lineups are too big for them, though Birdman is a good defender
    2. San Antonio has TP who can just run laps around Fish and go into the paint on PnR
    3.Dallas would need to play like they did on the L we had against them, plus win a couple of close games, only other player outside of KB in these teams I could trust with the game on the line.
    4. Portland does not worry me much since Playoff BB is way different than coming to the Rose Garden on the 2nd of a back 2 back.

    The rest I could see the Thunder pull off one or two games, same as the Rockets, but I don’t think there is really a huge challenger to the Lakers out west unless there is a trade that changes the landscape.

    P.S. sorry for changing the subject to my wild trade proposals, I hate when people do that and it goes against the spirit of this site. I just could not resist…

  54. Just to be clear: I think Denver is a threat if they can land one more big body. That is a good team and I like Lawson as a backup. Also, I like the Portland and Thunder rosters but think those teams are evolving and learning to win and need another year (Portland) or more (Thunder) before they are a serious threat.

    And I agree with JD and the others that said it earlier, Jamison to the Cavs would change the East and the NBA to me. But that was just not the topic of this thread. After those two games in Texas I had my mind on the West.

  55. Can someone point me in the direction of Zephid’s salary cap/luxury tax post earlier this season? Searched but I can’t find it.

  56. There was also:

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2009/12/06/whats-mitch-kupchak-doing-these-days/

    That one was more focused on how the Lakers could lower their overall salary, although it looks as though that won’t happen with our current depth issues.

  57. Another good thread about up coming players who will be traded. Off subject, but worthwhile (Kurt & ray).

    http://bbs.clutchfans.net/showthread.php?t=180392

  58. Thanks guys. Have some tax questions I want to research.

  59. The assumption that Denver is not big enough inside, is based on Pau and Drew playing better together while on the court at the same time. The physical aspect of Denver’s game is more concerning over the size advantage that LA has in the post. It tends to cancel out the size advantage when you are aggresive and active in the post. Whether its getting offensive rebounds or are blocking shots in the paint. I feel that Denver is the true test out west, if they land a big or not. They got last years WCF experience behind them, confidence they can hang with LA in a 7 game series, an ultra quick pg( T. LAwson), an upgrade at defending KB(Afflalo), and Carmelo playing at an MVP level with a hungar of last years defeat in his game. It would make for an interesting series if thats what it comes down to in the end.

  60. Snoopy:
    http://www.ocregister.com/sports/bryant-229131-wednesday-night.html

    Kobe’s, ahem, inspirational words are towards the end of the article. Henry Abbott also put them in TrueHoop this morning.

  61. Kurt, the trade machine has a 1-for-1 mechanism for dealing with trade exceptions. You pick a player and if a team has a trade exception that fits, you just click the “trade exception” button under the player’s name and assign him the exception.

    So basically, it’s still like you’re trading just the exception for the player, except you can do it in concert with any other trade you wish to make.

    With any Haywood deal, the question is what do the Nuggs have to give up? They’ll almost certainly have to give up Lawson, picks, cash, and maybe even Birdman. If they don’t wanna give up Birdman, they still need about 4-5 mil in salary to match Haywood’s salary. The Nuggs will either have to get a third team involved or they’ll have to get someone to bite on a poo poo deluxe platter of Anthony Carter, Joey Graham, Balkman, and Malik Allen.

    If the Nuggs have to give up Lawson and Birdman Andersen to get Haywood, I’m ok with that. Lawson kills us with his speed, and Birdman just outworks us some games.

  62. and 45, your trade is ridiculously lopsided in the Lakers and Raptors favor. The Rockets have absolutely no reason to do any of that. They don’t need expiring contracts because they already have McGrady. And giving up Battier and Lowry for expirings? No way.

    And Snoopy, Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ is the best source for everything salary/tax related.

  63. First of all, I think Hinrich would be a great fit for the triangle, but we can’t afford him and I don’t see a trade that would work for him. He has 9 million over 3 years now.

    While it would be nice to get another shooter (though we pay sasha 5 million a year to be a shooter) we are not going to get one.

  64. DirtySanchez

    Other than the misspelling of hunger you were right on point.

    We would have to play Bynum off the bench and start Lamar against them which is always an option.

  65. The Ding link draws the stark contrast that I noted last night between what the Spurs did with Duncan and the Lakers did with Kobe last night. I think this will be something to remember come playoff time.

    As to Gasol, he should play when he thinks he’s ready, not when Phil thinks he’s ready. If this were May, I might see it differently. But it’s January.

  66. I think Denver is by far the biggest threat. They seem almost specifically designed to beat LA.

    1.A Kobe stopper in Afflalo.
    2.Best in the league at getting to the line. Since we are not deep foul trouble hurts us more than most teams.
    3.Two quality point guards(Billups and Lawson) that could cause extreme problems.
    4.Very underrated big men that could get hot.
    5.A high energy bench that could just kill ours if we are not playing well.

  67. ray

    Try it again on the trade machine. Farmar and Morrison for Hinrich is $394K off. The Trade Machine does not allow for cash considerations or a player increasing or decreasing his salary to make the trade work, therefore that deal would work because it’s so close.

    Worst case scenario is to add the other dead weight of Josh P. and get the trade exception back which does work on the Trade Machine. Besides, Chicago would more than likely waive him and we would get him back.

  68. “Plus, and this may seem blasphemous to some, but I still have questions about Billups. Yes, he’s been to 5 or 6 straight conference Finals. But he’s only been to 2 Finals and has one ring. That’s a little Buffalo Bills-ish to me.”

    ____

    I wouldn’t say “blasphemous” but I think it is a bit unfair. The 2008 Celtics were better than the Pistons. The 2009 Lakers were better than the Nuggets and Billups was over 30 for both of those series (he is now 33). I would have to check out 2007 and 2006 more closely, but I tend to think LeBron was the difference in 2007, which would be hard to put in Billups. It may be that you could put Miami’s beating the Pistons in 2006 on himm but I would need to look at game logs. The 2005 Finals were turned by Robert Horry as much as anything.

    I think the ultimate advantage the Lakers have is that no one else has a 1-2 as good as Bryant and Gasol, but in the case of Denver, I think that is more because Billups is getting old than it is a “Buffalo Bills” thing.

  69. @68

    I have seen a few Bulls’ fans suggest precisely that deal (with Powell).

  70. ray

    Please do not look at Hinrich as just a shooter. He is a tall SG that handles the ball well enough to be the PG in our system. Remember, Ron Harper was our point for a time. Hinrich is a very intelligent player who understands defense (he was in charge of guarding the best 1’s, 2’s and sometimes 3’s before they landed D Rose).

    True, he can hit the open shot, but that’s not the only reason we would want him. His sole purpose would be to run the point and not get beat like a drum. He is a vast improvement over anyone we have and his price is not that outlandish once you do the math. $9.5 mill for one very good player makes way more sense than $5.2 mill for a panty waste and $4 mill for Jordan.

  71. I believe that FO will wait to see what other contending teams do before they decide to make any moves. But the notion of C. Bosh coming here for A. Bynum, makes other FO’s in the league take notice and maybe make moves that they would not normally make. There are several teams that are one expiring contract away from being labeled the favorite to win it all. Coming into the year the question of LA breaking the season wins record was the talk, now its whether or not we can hold down our nearest competitor from catching up. With LA not dominating and leaving the door open for thieves, somebody is gonna try and still our cookies off the table.

  72. robinred,
    I don’t mean to pin series’ losses on Billups, nor do I want to downplay the fact that he truly has been a very good player in this league. But I do think that his reputation as a big time performer is a bit exaggerated and he’s lived off the reputation of his 2004 Finals performance for a long while. Meaning, that if he’s going to be a “difference maker” for Denver, I’m not sold. Many point to him as a guy that will give our PG’s problems and I understand the sentiment. But shots that Billups takes are ones that Melo does not and that is a plus for me. The flip side of that is also that Artest and Kobe may be able to stifle Melo enough that the series would turn on the performance of Billups and I think that could end up being in our favor.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really like Chauncey and I think he was the perfect fit for a Denver team that was too caught up in balancing touches for AI/Melo. When a pure PG (like Billups) came into the fold, you saw a completely different dynamic where players were slotted into roles that made the team more of a contender than they were with AI in place. That said, I do think that Billups needs the others around him to step up more than what media/commentators suggest when critiquing his game and, in the past, more times than not, if a team has needed a lights out performance from Billups to take the next step he has not provided it. That doesn’t mean he’s not very good, but it also doesn’t mean he’s going to be the guy that makes the ultimate difference (I still think any series against Denver rests on Melo’s ability to be efficient on offense while their defense contains our bigs and slows Kobe).

  73. It’s all fine and nice for Kobe to say everyone needs to be more aggressive, etc., but have you ever seen the look on his face when he doesn’t get he ball when he thinks he should?

    Where are all those extra shots for Odom, Artest and Bynum going to come from? And if they don’t come from Kobe, but from the bench players then how are Farmar, Shannon and the other bench players going to be aggressive?

  74. @busboy

    I looked at that site you linked and looked at the trade machine again. You’re right it is close by 300k, but financially can the lakers do that?

    I agree that Hinrich would probably be good for the triangle, though I don’t know what makes me say that since I’ve seen him play only sparingly. He shooting almost 38% making 38/101. But compare that to Farmar this year: 34% 36/105 this year. Is that really that much better? I don’t know. There’s still the question of whether Hinrich would be a good Triangle offense guy since he doesn’t run that system over there in chicago.

    If we trade for Hinrich and add his 9 million we’ll be at 83,166,592 next year where the cap goes down and the luxury tax goes up. I don’t know how that makes sense financially.

  75. @73

    Good points. I agree that at 33, with his game, Billups is not the type of PG who would specifically give the Lakers problems–Ty Lawson is.

    As to clutch/big game stuff, here is a good link:

    http://www.82games.com/0809/CSORT11.HTM

  76. 33) I’m not really trying to say Trevor was shooting better than Artest. I’m just personally disappointed that Artest isn’t more productive on offense yet. I was expecting him to be a significant upgrade not only defensively but also offensively and so far he’s not. Mostly b/c he gets tangled up in the paint all the time, and his 3pt%, while better than Trevor’s, isn’t as good as I thought it would be.

    60) Harsh words from Kobe. And he’s right. KB24 is the only real force keeping this team from becoming content with 1 ring.

  77. robinred, may I guess Slava Medvedenko? I thought Lakers drafted him in 2000, so he’d be on the 2000-01 roster.

    If he’s not, I’d go for Lue next. This is for the per-36 scoring.

  78. given full health to every team, except Portland and Houston which has no way of recovering from its injuries, I’d say the Spurs, as currently constructed, has a shot.

    Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili.

    That’s enough to give ANY team fits, since Tim and Manu are great two-way players and Tony can’t be stopped if on a roll.

    They also have Popovich, whom I think is probably one of the best postseason minded coaches, and if RJ does his role-playing bit, I’d say they give us a run for our money.

    Also, although Denver hasn’t changed in terms of its makeup, Carmelo improved, and they also have a point guard who can abuse ours. Take into account their advantage at home, I’m not so sure if we can write them off.

    But other than that, no, I don’t think the other teams have a legit shot :)

  79. @78

    Brilliant. I think Slava played 21 games or something.

  80. lakersfansincemagic January 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Hey off topic question about Gilbert Arenas’ situation..

    So the authorities said that he carried a weapon outside of his home and business w/o a license..

    [quote]Arenas was charged Thursday with carrying a pistol without a license outside a home or business, a felony that carries a maximum five years in jail and a fine.[/quote]

    My question is.. isn’t the stadium his business location?

  81. @busboy

    Farmar makes 1.9 mil this year.

    And Morrison was a salary dump because we’d have Vlad for one more year if we didn’t trade for him.

    and I think spending 9 million on 2 other players to play time on the bench next year will be a better way to spend that money.

  82. Travis,
    Artest is shooting 39% from three. You were expecting him to be much better than that?

  83. Billups is to Denver what Fish is to us. He stabalizes their offense, runs their defense, and hits most of his big shots. He is important for those facts just like Fish. The only difference is that he is better at defending than Fish is.

    Andrew gets his touches with Fish in the game. Farmar is too busy looking for his shot. Nene gets his touches with Billups in the game, AI was too busy looking for his shot.

  84. Billups is overrated. Totally agree with those who say that.

    But he’s not the real reason I see Denver as the Lakers’ top threat out West. They have an Ace in Melo, good size, and they bang hard — and get away with it at home — which seems to always frustrate the Lakers. If the Lakers push back — like Pau and LO did last May — then I like the Lakers chances a lot more.

    And Phil vs. Karl isn’t close. So again, I’m not in any way saying the Lakers can’t win the West.

    I just believe it’ll take a significant upgrade from what they’ve shown us far this season.

    As Kurt always says, I’d rather peak in May and June than in January.

  85. @inwit,
    That’s why they need to get more aggressive, and also ironically why Fisher is vital to the team still. He’s the only one who doesn’t get intimidated when Kobe goes into that mentality, and may be the only one who Kobe listens to when he says “ease up, shoot less”.

  86. For all the talk about the Lakers needing a ‘pure shooter’, when we’ve had that kind of player on the roster, imo either it hasn’t really worked out or Phil hasn’t given the player the minutes we would expect. Who are the ‘pure shooters’ we’ve had since Phil was the coach? I count Glen RIce, Tracy Murray, RadMan, Sasha. Have any of these guys really ‘spread the floor so no one can double off them’ in a way that made a difference? Or did they just get killed on D?

    Something to think about.

  87. Same points I made Mimsy.

  88. Indeed they are, Busbuys4me. I didn’t see your post earlier, sorry about that.

    Oh, and I also agree with you on Billups. Look at the Nuggets before he showed up, and how more mature and emotionally stable they seem to be since he entered the locker room. The mentality and experience he and Fisher bring to their teams can’t be measured in statistics.

    Did I mention Billups scare me more than a lot of other players in the league?

  89. Mimsy, in order, which other players in the league scare you?

    number one for me is scalabrini, he’s just weird looking

  90. It hasn’t been mentioned already but is there an ounce of truth on the rumors of SA getting Tayshaun Prince? I’d be more wary of SA if this does push through.

  91. ray

    I agree to disagree. Jordan does make $1.9 this year, but he is going to want more time and more money next year. He probably wants $4 to $6 million and I don’t think he’ll get either if he returns ($6 million or playing time) so why not get something in return for him now. The same for Morrison. He (Morrison) will be out of the league next year anyway.

    My trade proposal means, we keep Fish for his goodbye tour. He gets to play 15 to 20 minutes a night. He gets to start games and finish, only if needed, and we get his replacement (although expensive) but well worth it. Why does this bother you so?

    If the FO wanted to save money and get someone cheap but entirely useful, they had a chance at Dejuan Blair with both the first and second picks, but they chose to ship them out for $3 million. Is he better than Josh P? Yes, by far. Would he fit the triangle? Yes, hustle always works. So sometimes, being fiscally responsible leads to missed opportunities.

  92. Mimsy, I’d be more scared of a Tony Parker than Billups in that, though they both are cerebral players, the former is more athletic and can carry a team better (see SA when they were without TD & Ginobil).

  93. Gasol said he’ll be playing tomorrow.

  94. Rooting for the Bulls tonight against those little green men. Up by 8 at halftime of a game they should be leading by double digits at least.

  95. Just want to ask, if we trade Morrison away and don’t get any players back in return we will only have 12 players. Will we need to sign another to reach the minimum of 13 players? Same scenario if we do a 2 for 1 trade, or 3 for 2 trade etc etc.

  96. 92, the most Farmar is going to get is a qualifying offer next year, and that’s the absolute most. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got less than Shannon Brown’s deal. No one is going to offer him $6 mil.

    And so long as we can dump Sasha on the Bulls, acquiring Hinrich isn’t so bad financially. But if we’re giving up Morrison and Farmar for Hinrich, then we’ll have over $90 mil in salary next year and over $120 mil total payroll with luxury tax. That’s just too much.

  97. Zephid, I just saw it on a small flash on espn. S’why I’m asking if it’s true. I don’t have the details. Perhaps they could pull it off without losing their core (& Jefferson), just like you suggested. Don’t you think they’ll be a better match to LA that way?

  98. Danny

    There are a plethera of free agents out there who are not signed. Any minimum dollar player would satisfy the need. In addition, players like Miami’s Dorrel Wright are soon to be waived and can be picked up. Even a trade from a team looking to get under the salary cap for a player making under $2.5 million can be had for our trade exception.

  99. Thanks Busboys4me. So regardless we will have to get another player in?

  100. @ray,
    I have never bothered to put them in order. Once you are facing them, the ones off the court don’t matter once bit. Only the one in front of you does.

    Scary players in my mind are, in no particular order:

    Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili.

    Lebron. (Duh.)

    Ray F-ing Allen. I would KILL to get him on the Lakers.

    Chauncey Billups, because everyone else on his team plays better when he’s on the floor.

    Kendrick Perkins. I think he’s still trying to eat all other centers alive.

    Dwight Howard.

    Steve Nash’s passing talents.

    Yao Ming when he’s healthy. Un.Stoppable.

    Bruce Bowen and Mike Bibby get honorary mention for what they’ve done against Lakers in the past.

    Oh, and Shaq on a good day. Damn.

    I haven’t followed the Lakers for very long, only a couple of years. I’m sure my list is both incomplete and holding players that might not deserve to be there. But these are the ones that make me go “oh shit” when I see them on an opponent’s roster.

    @robindude,
    I agree that Tony Parker is FAR more scary than Billups. It’s just that Billups is more scary than, say, Melo. We can slow down Carmelo Anthony and force him to take low-percent shots. That’s how we got the trophy last year. But how do you remove the positive intangible effects Billups has on his team?

  101. Danny – Yes.

    I agree with everyone else, the Cavs getting Jamison scares me because they can make a trade that I think Washington will go for. Big Z will be waived but if Washington gets JJ Hickson in return they will make the deal. Both centers get waived back to their respective teams and each keeps their new PFs. Go to the link below.

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yhb9e6s

  102. Busboys, for this year that trade would be great, but financially wont make sense beyond this year. Same with a bosh for bynum trade.

    I’d be on board with a sasha+ammo for heinrich deal though. But no way Chicago adds sasha’s salary. They want to free up cap space for one of the big three, so it would have to be for farmar.

    Zephid, i disagree that jordan wont get 4 million next year. someone will overpay for him next year.

    So even though it would be great for this year, it would be terrible for the future

  103. @busboys, btw, i dont hate the trade. I think it would improve the team. But im trying to figure out if it would happen, and i really can’t see it. too many quotes of buss saying he wont pay much more. and i don’t see it being too much of an improvement as we have for this year.

    My guess is we’re staying pat. Hope that sasha will play great as a backup next year (contract year!!!) sign fish for one more year (he has said he will play one more year) for super cheap. but it would be great to get heinrich. that would shore up the bench and i’d be comfortable with heinrich as a starter or bench guy.

    But i am all for Farmar getting better, brown getting better, and luke running the offense in the second unit. I want to see what luke does and how the bench does for the next month with a healthy squad before worrying about the need for outside help. That is the most likely scenario

  104. Sometimes, because I hate myself, I like to go back and look over old draft boards. Aaron Brooks was available when we took Crittendon. I know how idiotic that line of thinking is, because the draft is a crapshoot and we all were thrilled to get Javaris at the time. But if you have a sadistic side, it’s a fun way to cause emotional pain. FYI, the pick used on Rajon Rondo originally came from us, via a weird series of trades.

    Busboys – Where’d you hear Miami is waiving Wright? I haven’t seen any source suggest that. Wright has been Riley’s pet project for years, and even though he’s been a huge bust, this is the first year he’s shown any promise and he’s worked his way into the rotation. They’ve invested too much in Wright to just waive him now. If Miami is going to waive anyone, it’ll be someone like Arroyo.

  105. For all the trade talk about Jamison going to the Cavs, why would the Wiz do this? Wasn’t this a huge rivalry up until a couple of weeks ago when Arenas destroyed the Wiz team with his off-court gambling-inspired incident? I understand that shaving money off your payroll is important, but still I would imagine they’d have other teams offering similar or even better deals (expiring contracts)

    Our biggest threat is Denver, hands down. They’re basically an improved version of the team that made it to the WCF last year. If it wasn’t for a couple of amazing plays by Trevor and a few mental lapses by the Nugs, we may not have reached the Finals last year. They’ve got three important factors that can beat us – youth/health/athleticism, talent and leadership/experience/poise. Every other challenger lacks at least one of those three. Spurs lack youth, health & athleticism; Mavs lack poise and youth; Rockets lack talent (role players need a superstar); Blazers lack health, experience & poise (though Roy is maturing by the month it seems); Utah lacks health & talent.

  106. IMO, ShanWOW is the PG of the future. he needs to shoot 1000 3’s a day from here on out, but otherwise he is what the Lakers’ triangle needs from that position; good size, good D, willing 5th option, speed/quickness, and an improving three. the handle needs some work too, but they got plenty of ball handlers for the next 5 years while he get it. plus he’s got the perfect mentor in Fish for where to be at the right time.

  107. Someone wrote:
    ——————
    But I see a team who’s best player has not been close to himself with injuries. Its second-best player has missed nearly one-third of the season with hamstring injuries; the No. 3 player hasn’t shown any consistency, especially when playing with No. 2; the fourth scoring option is up and down on any given night; the point guard is slowing with age; the big off-season addition can’t jump four inches off of the floor; and the bench has essentially been limited to a recent stretch of solid play by a guy fans were until recently ready to run out of town.

    They’ve been blown out at home by Cleveland; blown out in Denver and San Antonio and Phoenix and the decimated leftovers of the Blazers; folded late against the Clippers; and needed last-second shots to beat the Bucks, Heat and Kings. The schedule has been home-loaded at the start of the season as well.

    They’re 5-3 this month, and we’ve yet to see that “statement” victory that we saw a year ago against Boston on Christmas, or in Cleveland right after Bynum went down.

    —————–

    They forgot to say…but then again, the Lakers have the best record in the NBA.

  108. Aaron: Yeah, honestly, I did think so. This isn’t a knock on Artest’s play, in fact I love what he’s doing, I just think with our talent and the triangle that we ought to be getting more out of him. With the offensive firepower we have, nobody in the league should get cleaner looks at 3 than Artest. And while I think its also a product of our PG core not shooting well from 3, there’s also a Troy Murphy who’s shooting like 41% from 3. Just to put Ron’s numbers in perspective.

  109. Chris J wrote:

    ———-
    I don’t doubt L.A. can win the west, perhaps even the Finals. But my point was so far this season, I have a lot more concerns than confidence. Hopefully that will change as time goes on.

    ———–

    Lol, how soon we forget eh? Did you not have concerns last year? What about when the lakers went to 7 games against the rockets, did you not have concerns?

    I’m not talking about you in particular, but rather laker fans in general. We have concerns EVERY YEAR. The 72-10 Bulls had concerns. Every championship team has concerns, because it is a long season and in that season teams go through slumps and hot streaks. Let me ask you, how was your concern regarding the Lakers when Pau came back and they won 10-12 in a row by like 16 pts per game? Back then i bet you weren’t concerned at all (again, not you in particular, but laker fans in general) and were already counting a 5th ring for Kobe’s thumb.

    Basically, people have a NATURAL tendency to extrapolate RECENT short term trends ad infinitum. This is a tendency seen in trading stocks/futures, but it rears its ugly head in all parts of life where emotion is a factor. When you win 10 in a row by 16pts per game, you think that you are unstoppable. When you go into a slump, you think this is the new level of your team.

    It is NATURAL but irrational.

    This same phenomena is apparent with the Spurs. Everyone is now on the Spurs bandwagon due to the last few weeks. If you go back a month people were wondering whether the Spurs were going to even make the playoffs. The Spurs have an absolute HORRIBLE record against good teams. In fact, i think that they have only won 1 game (at home or away) against teams in the top 1/3 of the standings. This happens to be a recent win against the Lakers — a Lakers team depleted with injuries by the way, in San Antonio.

    How can the Spurs, who have a 1 win vs 8 loss record against top 1/3 teams, be any threat to the Lakers?

    The Spurs are old. They do not have an appropriate championship mixture. They added RJ who is at best an AVERAGE nba player, and not one suited for a championship team. He is a volume shooter. Mcdyess, is too old to even be on the court. Ginobli is not longer the Ginobli of old. Tim Duncan is playing out of this world, but he too has a degenerative knee problem. Injuries will be a huge factor with the Spurs, and even if they are lucky and they don’t factor, oldness will factor.

    The Spurs are an unathletic, old, small team. Even Parker has come down with a nagging injury in his foot, and is not the Parker of old. Parker had a PER of 23 last year, and this year it is down to 17! Manu in his prime had a PER in the mid 20’s, now it is down to 20. His eFG% was in the mid 50’s, now it is in the high 40’s. The Spurs are not a team one should fear.

    The team that every Laker fan should fear is the Denver Nuggets. Last year, i still maintain, that the Nuggets were the 2nd best team in the NBA. They are tough and work hard. They will give the Lakers a run for their money in the playoffs.

    THE ONLY TEAM WHICH CAN BEAT THE LAKERS IS THE NUGGETS! COUNT ON IT!

  110. By far, I disagree on San Antonio challenging us for the West crown. If you have noticed, the Spurs almost plays to its best just to cope with us… of course its different with Kobe in your bench with a bad back.

    Denver is the most complete team that has the depth to challenge us. They do still need that big body (one more like everyone said) to compete with us, and if they get that, we would be in trouble.

    I would like to take this opportunity to scrutinize Denver’s lineup a little bit more:

    1. Chauncey Billups gives every team trouble. He is clutch and he is a proven leader. Proven winner too considering how he has single-handedly transformed the rogue Nuggets to title contenders overnight.

    2. Tywon Lawson. I dare say he is much much better than Minnesota’s top 2 PG picks… and they just send this one over to Denver for a mere future pick. I mean, if you guys think the Gasol trade was a steal, think about WHAT IF we were the one doing this deal? We had the 29th overall pick in the same draft and we could have very well offered MEM’s 2010 2nd to Minny and that would already be better value than what Minny got. All for 3M.

    3. Birdman – like someone said in this post, his value is in how hard he works. He also seems to be extra motivated when it comes to facing LA. Same can be said about Kmart.

    4. Melo – its weird making him the 4th reason but seriously, no one in the league can match up with him 1-on-1 size, skill, strength and IQ. The only guy close would be Lebron… get the point?

    5. NENE – well for all the hate he got on the contract that Kiki gave him despite being raw and unproven, Nene has been for the past 2 seasons well worth his contract. He is solid and though he is still 2 inches shorter than what he should be, he compensates it using his brute strength and hard work.

    Denver has a very good starting 5 and a very potent bench. If you don’t think Lawson won’t give us problems, you’d be fooling yourself. The difference from last season is basically Lawson and Afflalo, another player who plays bigger than his name sounds. Overall, I think Denver gives us a minimum of 6 games, good money on 7 games, and lets not get too complacent and lose homecourt or else…

  111. May I also add that there is a catch that Denver could do with their assets… they’ve already lost 2 1st rounders to the Steven Hunter deal and the Lawson deal, but Lawson seems to be of better value than the 2 lost picks combined.

    Now here is where it gets interesting.

    The biggest albatross that the Nuggets have is Kenyon Martin’s contract. In no way, shape or form is he worth close to 12M and yet he is earning a measly 16M. Next season, when he becomes that fat expiring contract for the summer of 2011 (the real big time summer) Denver can improve even more by sending out his by-then-expiring deal and negotiating him to come back afterwards.

    But of course that’s next season, but WHAT IF Denver was able to find a taker as early as this deadline? They could convert KMart into Nocioni and Kenny Thomas (something the Kings would do to cut Noc’s contract) and still be willing to part with Kmart for nothing. Nocioni has the size and quickness to be effective at the perimeter and to bother the lane, Kenny Thomas is that big body that you all refer to.

    Another option would be to use KMart (again) to acquire Okafor and Posey since the Hornets are so cash-strapped these days. 2 defensive minded players who can both fit into Denver’s scheme immediately.

    Overall, I see a big trading chip in KMart. I just hope Kroenke is too cheap to make a bold move like this now in favor of next season just to “save”. But if they really wanted to be contenders, they could. I say that of course, relative to what they already are now.

  112. Denver is scary for sure. Last year I wanted them and the Lakers to meet because I thought it would be a good series and the Lakers would prevail. This year not as sure about the Lakers prevailing part, only because of all the injuries. If the Lakers get healthy and stay healthy, they are unstoppable in the West.

  113. @ Kaveh

    You’re right. There will always be concerns. But my point was this year’s team has raised a lot more questions than confidence, at least in my mind at this point in the season.

    I was infuriated with how the Lakers played vs. Houston in the playoffs last year. They ultimately gut-checked, and made it through the battle. But that doesn’t mean they’d be able to do it again.

    And I’m sorry to note that the best record in the league doesn’t mean jack.

    The 1989-90 Lakers won 63 games, which was four better than their closest competitor. But when the going got tough in the playoffs, Phoenix ran them off the floor four games to one.

    Ask the Cavs what that best regular-season record tasted like last year while they watched the Lakers drink champagne in June.

    Your points on the emotional swings we experience over the course of a year are dead-on. But I really think my concerns about this year’s squad aren’t based in emotional swings.

    These guys have yet to show me that they’re as focused as a year ago. We can’t crown them anything yet. That’s all I’m saying. There is plenty of time to get things on the right track, and fortunately Phil has a knack for that thing. So let’s hope all ends well.

    I’m flying down to L.A. to watch the Hallway Series resume on Friday. Here’s to a Laker win — hopefully the next of many more to come.

  114. Wow. LeBron James.

  115. This lebron guy seems really good. maybe we can trade sasha/morrison and some extra for him?

  116. Travis,
    Murphy is a 3 point specialist. Artest is shooting from distance about as well as he ever has in his career.

    And somebody tell me Lebron isn’t the best player in the NBA… I don’t think its even that close anymore. He is on par with Jordan in my opinion. I would like to see him with some talent around him… it would open things up for him that much more. It is just fun watching him play.

  117. Cavs look pretty scary right now as they are. watching Cle @ Den and LBJ really is unstoppable.

  118. Who is Sundiata Gaines?

    – after a few clicks, I get that he is a 20% shooter from 3pt line (1/5, 1 being the one he just made), just scored his career high in points tonight with 9…

  119. On the train going home following the cavs jazz box score. Someone please explain how the score went from 91-85 with 30 secs to 96-97?! Insane!

  120. First NBA 3 pointer for Gaines… and its a buzzer beater to down the LeBrons!

  121. just as I said that, Cavs got beat by buzzer beater.

    I’m the George Kastanza of NBA commentator!

    It’s a good night in Lakerland.

  122. this gaines rookie is not bad either!:)

  123. What is the difference between Kobe and LeBron? Kobe would not have been taking the ball out of bounds at the end of the game. He would have been shooting the free throws. LeBron wanted no parts of those pressure free throws.

  124. Snoopy

    They extended Arroyo. They are trying to get under the cap. Check the threads that I have placed. One is “These teams have to make a trade”. He might not be traded but given away for a trade exception is what the article says.

  125. DreDawg,
    2 3’s 4 FTs and 1 FG for the jazz
    5 Fts, and 3 missed FT’s for the Cavs
    and one of the 3’s was obviously that Gaines kid on a 10 day out of the Dleague at the buzzer

  126. yes it is interesting, he is actually a better FT shooter than Parker and BigZ this season

  127. Sundiata Gaines is great.

    Was called up for the D-League just about a week ago. Here’s a link to his call-up.

    http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2010/1/6/1236386/this-right-here-is-why-i-love-the

  128. I bet Gaines will get a second ten day contract just for that shot even if they don’t want to keep him.

  129. Spot on Kaveh and Warren. Spot on.

  130. Hiding behind Mo Williams’ late-game free throw shooting is much more acceptable than hiding behind Anthony Parker and Big Z.

    LeBron, to be a big, bright, shining star you have to take that burden on yourself rather than watching as your teammates whiff on 3 of the last 6 and revive an opponent who was all but cooked. That’s right.

  131. Man I saw a feature on that kid getting signed on NBA TV. he was in the parking lot calling his mom when he found out he was signed. Oh, man. Good for him. And good for us. Boston and Cleveland losing! I don’t know what feels better, the win yesterday or these 2 losses. Haha!

  132. Anybody have an idea how much these guys make on average on these 10 day contracts?

  133. @ Dave (67),

    I agree that the Nugs are our biggest threat in the West, but what’s a “Kobe stopper”? Isn’t that an oxymoron or something? I’ve never seen one, especially in a 7 game series. And I’m a big Afflalo fan (UCLA Bruin here), but he certainly hasn’t earned the right to even remotely deserve such a title. I’ve seen enough Ruben Pattersons come and go to know that there’s truly no such thing as a Kobe stopper. You can only hope to contain him.

  134. No one can stop Kobe entirely, but a few players have slowed him down some. Artest and Battier have had some good games against him.

    I think Afflalo could be the same type of player. Kobe shot 7/17 against him and Lebron 12/28. Afflalo isn’t relied upon on offense, so he can put 100% of his energy into stopping Kobe.

    We’ll see how they do in their other games this year.

  135. #133 Isolate
    according to the NBPA website on 10-day contract

    with respect to a 10-Day Contract, the Minimum Annual Salary called for under Article II, Section 6(a) multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the number of days covered by the Contract and the denominator of which is the total number of days of that NBA Regular Season.

  136. @aaron
    did you listen to the Chad Ford Bill Simmons pod cast. His idea, was a sign and trade with the lakers and cleveland at the end of the season. Kobe for Lebron.
    His feeling was Lebron + Pau + Bynum gives you young players that would dominate for the next ten years. If it weren’t for Kobe’s trade clause, Ford thought it would be a great trade and place for Lebron.

    So the question is this, after this season would you as a Laker fan take that trade if it were possible?

    (Simmons also said that Ford will now be hated by all the Laker fans because you don’t mess with Kobe.)

    I have to say, that trade would be interesting…

  137. I think we should change that term to the Kobe slower then. And 7-17 from the field is an off night for Kobe, but it’s by no means terrible. I’ll cite small sample size on that one. If the Nuggets are going to beat us, it’s not going to be by limiting Kobe. Because simply put, it can’t be done, especially in the playoffs. That’s been proven. The only way the Nugs beat us in a 7 game series is if their frontcourt outplays and overpowers ours. Because in my opinion, that is the Lakers’ greatest core strength.

  138. Ray,
    I didn’t listen to the podcast yet. I actually just got out of the late IMAX 3D showing of Avatar at the Century City Mall. Those guys looked like Kevin Durant except more normal. The trade would just be Kobe straight up for Lebron? That is a no brianer for a couple reasons.

    Lebron is the best player in the NBA in my opinion and Kobe is the 2nd best. But mainly because of course Lebron is so much younger and he is an athletic Michael Jordan like freak who doesn’t seem like he will lose athleticism till his mid 30’s. The guy also is never injured. Lebron gives you a better chance to win now and in the future. Of course the Cavs will never trade Lebron and if they did it would be for another young superstar.

    But I have news for Laker fans. It would just be Andrew and Lebron going forward. Gasol is not young and neither are Artest and Odom. This fake world of us having Lebron isn’t safe for me. To go from Kobe to Lebron who are in my opinion 2 of the top 4 players to ever play basketball… I must quickly start thinking of Derek Fisher. The yin and the yang… we all need it. I might need a cold shower.

  139. “[Luke] made a big difference yesterday,” Bryant said. “We ran our offense through him for a stretch of five-six minutes. I thought it was unfair when people said [at the beginning of the season] that when Pau gets back, we’ll have a full team. That’s not right at all because Luke is a big, big part of what we do.”

    –Thank you Kobe! Walton definitely deserves that nod. In my opinion he’s one of the most reliable players we have in terms of running an efficient triangle offense.

    And a nice tidbit on Pau from Phil…

    “He’s handsome, he looked good,” Jackson said with a wry smile. “He’s a handsome Spaniard.”

  140. Oh, and is it official that Shannon Brown hasn’t been accepted to the All-star dunk contest?

    If so… I can’t accurately convey how deeply disappointed I am. What a sham.

  141. @aaron:

    you don’t trade your franchise player. The player who has played here his entire career and brought the franchise 4 championships. You just don’t. Period.

  142. Sundiata Gaines indeed! What an amazing 4th quarter in Utah. I just tuned in hoping to see the Cavs go down. DIdn’t expect the most entertaining finish of the year. Sorry, but it not surprising anymore when Kobe does his thing. Great, but not surprising. Just very satisfying. Sundiata Gaines played great even without that amazing shot. And Lebron scoring 18 points in 3 minutes to turn a 12 point deficit into a 6 point lead, only to watch the Jazz come back in the final 29 seconds by playing the foul game? And then the miracle 3 by the 10-day contract guy? NBA action is Fantastic!

  143. Denver

    I think everyone’s underrating Afflalo. He is a good defensive player with enough size to really bother Kobe. And if he is as good as I think he is, he will be learning each time he plays Kobe. Can he stop Kobe? No, he can’t. Can he make Kobe less effective? Certainly.

    However, they did lose Linas Kleiza and I don’t think anyone on that team can provide what he provided off the bench. They will miss him come playoff time. Had they kept him and they would be the favorites to reach the Finals.

    The western team I fear the most…

    OKC

    I wouldn’t want any part of a young and upcoming team like the Former Sonics on round one. They may pull an upset against anyone. Can they pull two in a row? No. They lack experience.

    San Antonio

    Simply put, they’re not as good as they once were. They are no longer a defensive oriented team and if their shots are not falling, they just get blown out of the water. Seriously, I don’t see them making it to the WCF.

    Dallas

    They don’t matchup well with the Lakers size and we have enough people to throw at Nowitzki to slow him down through the whole series: LO, Ron and even Pau (when they play Nowitzki at C). However, if they get the 2nd seed, they may well reach the WCF! None of the other teams not named Warriors can take them out in a 7 game series…

    Portland

    They no longer have Oden or Przybilla available, so we should be able to pound them inside, regardless of the damage done by LaMarcus Aldridge with his outside shots. They scare me during the regular season, not in the playoffs.

  144. dave in hillsboro January 15, 2010 at 7:41 am

    129, actually Gaines got a second ten day contract Thursday morning, prior to the game against the Cavs. You’ve got to wonder if the Jazz are going to sign him for the rest of the year, or let some other team snap him up, because you know someone will after that shot.

    Also, if you watch the video of him getting called up, which is in the link provided in comment 128, then you can’t help but feel good for this kid. To go from the D League to a third string PG to hitting the game winner against the Cavs, all within a couple of weeks, his head must be spinning right now. This sort of story is indeed what makes the NBA great.

  145. New post up about Shannon Brown in the dunk contest.

  146. @matthew

    see Shaq, former franchise player. We traded him to keep a young superstar that would keep people in the seats.

    and Aaron, it wouldn’t be a trade by cavs, but a sign and trade.

  147. 147) Shaq requested that trade. If Kobe was barking about touches and more money and getting Gasol/Bynum to recognize the pecking order, I think Matthew’s tone would be different. Kobe will be in the rafters, wants to be in the rafters, and trading him to Cleveland would be like putting him out to pasture before he’s ready.

  148. Agree with Travis.

    Shaq was traded because Buss wouldn’t give his aging self a $30 million extension. And I don’t think Shaq was a franchise player to begin with. He is a nomad in this league, changing 5 teams in his career, slowly riding into the sunset on yet another top one. Kobe’s been here since day 1 and he has acknowledged on multiple occasion that he wants to retire in purple and gold. Dealing Kobe now would be a slap to his face.

  149. Ultimately, while I can certainly imagine scenarios in which both the Spurs and Nuggets could beat the Lakers in a seven game series, those scenarios mostly rely on injuries or unlikely trades.

    It seems unlikely that Denver will be able to add an impact big without giving something up, and the scary names thrown out there for SA seem equally unlikely.

    To me, the scariest scenario would be that Jefferson starts to figure out how to play on that team. Pop seems to be a bit better at actually resting his players during the season than Phil, and if he really sticks to a limited minutes regimen for all of the big three, and Jefferson starts to play better, that team can certainly give us all we can handle.

    For some unknown reason, Denver just doesn’t scare me. I know rationally that they are good and constructed in a way that matches up well against us, I just never felt worried during the WCF last year, and they simply don’t strike fear in my heart. I think a part of it is that they rely so much on emotion, and that is really hard to sustain over the course of a seven game series. They might get really up and really hot for a while, but they have some players who can both disappear, and even become detrimental (yes, Martin and Smith in particular) when things aren’t going their way.

    @12. Mimsy – I feel compelled to point out that while the Spurs announcers are indeed terrible, I would certainly hesitate to say anything negative about the “Spurs nation” in general, particularly in light of http://www.48minutesofhell.com, which is amongst the most thoughtful and insightful team blogs out there. They represent the Spurs Nation every bit as well as FBG represents the Laker Nation, even if neither one is necessarily all that representative of either Nation as a whole.

  150. @ Travis and Matthew, Shaq will be in the rafters for the lakers also. Shaq and Kobe will be the next jersey’s up on the wall. Shaq was a franchise player even though he was traded lots of times after 30 years. There have only been a handful of 3 time finals MVPs (off the top of my head: MJ, Magic, Tim Duncan, and Shaq). He was the most dominant player the lakers had post 1996. He was terrible at keeping in shape and keeping motivated, but he dominated.

    My point was, that after shaq turned 30, the Lakers made the decision to go with the younger superstar (a superstar who was really close to signing with the clippers btw). Ford makes an interesting point that if that trade were to happen, giving us three superstars under 30 after this summer (pau, bynum, lebron) that would prolong the Lakers window another ten years. Regardless if it were a slap in the face, in basketball sense, it would be tough to not think of that trade (if it were possible since Kobe has a no trade clause.)
    Basketball wise, that makes sense for the Lakers.

    (cmon Aaron back me up here!)

  151. Of all the teams I’d rather not see in the first round, I think I’d put the Clippers at the top of the list. The Clips would have all the emotion on their side, but more importantly, Baron Davis has demonstrated that he can go off for at least one series. (I don’t think there’s much chance the Lakers would lose, but I’m much rather play the first round against a team that’s fading and wants to disappear into the summer than a team that has one chance to prove themselves.)