Preview & Chat: The New York Knicks

Kurt —  January 22, 2010

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Records: Lakers 32-10 (1st in West) Knicks 17-24 (10th in East, 1.5 games out of the playoffs)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.3 (10th in league), Knicks 106.1 (19th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.2 (2nd in league) Knicks 107.5 (18th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Knicks: Chris Duhon, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gillinari, Jered Jeffries, David Lee

Talking Books: I am just finishing up the challenging to read but interesting Death With Interruptions by José Saramago (shout out to our readers in Portugal). If you like literature — in the sense you enjoyed being an English major in college — I recommend it.

The Lakers players just picked up books from Phil Jackson (if they open them is another question). Eric Freeman over at Free Darko does a masterful job breaking down the books and their meanings to the players, this is a post worth a read.

Colin over at the Examiner suggests what Phil should have given his charges.

Knicks coming in: The Knicks are in the playoff hunt. Look at that starting roster above, realize that you are likely taller than their best player coming off the bench, and that first sentences is really saying something. This is a roster that has a long way to go to fit D’Antoni’s system, but the fact he has them this close to the playoffs suggests he is earning his money this year.

David Lee is shooting 55.8%, doing a good job on the boards and proving that good players who hustle can fit in any system if they want. Danilo Gallinari is a good fit for this system and is starting to figure out how to work in it. If you want to read more on their young players, Mike at Knickerblogger has a great breakdown of their progress.

Jordan Hill, the Knicks first round pick this summer, is not seeing a lot of time. I’m going to pass on what David Thorpe said while watching him at Summer League: This is a guy that is going to take a two or three years to figure out how to fit his athletic game into the NBA, and then he is the kind of guy who will work great complement better players, but don’t expect him to play well with lesser players.

Knicks blogs Knickerblogger has been knocking it out longer than this site has been around. And I still check the advanced stats page all the time.

Keys to game: Sometimes, after you get out of a rough stretch where you feel physically and emotionally beaten up, you just need an easy score. Hey, I’m talking about the Lakers big men in the paint, what did you think I was talking about? The point is, the Lakers should be able to dominate Lee and Jefferies inside tonight and control the game that way (the Lakers had a nearly 30 rebound advantage in the first meeting).

The Knicks don’t play slow, but they have become a .500 team lately (14-13 since the Lakers beat them in November) because they have slowed the tempo a little. Basically, if the break isn’t there they run a more set offense, particularly with the starters. Those sets are simple — pick and roll on one side of the court, three guys standing at the three point line on the other — but they can work if you don’t play the pick and roll well. Those guys at the arc will slash to the hoop if you sleep on them. And, with the floor spaced, Lee and Harrington hit the boards hard and have success. The Lakers need to be aware and talk on defense tonight.

Last year, the Lakers had a tough loss then headed to Madison Square Garden, and Kobe set a building record. See any parallels? I think it would be better if he plays within the system tonight, but something to watch.

Where you can watch: 5 p.m. start here out west, on KCAL 9 and ESPN. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

Kurt

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140 responses to Preview & Chat: The New York Knicks

  1. Don’t worry about the loss last night, people. Let’s all take comfort in Hollinger’s flawless mathematics. The Lakers are now #1 in his rankings after last night’s loss!
    http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/powerrankings

  2. It’ll be interesting to see how the Mamba and Co. bounce back from last night. I can’t wait. Kobe ALWAYS puts on a show at the Garden.

    http://balmer.typepad.com/keithsmooth/
    A Sports Humorist

  3. Seriously, read that Free Darko piece. I can’t get over the fact that Phil assigns Pau a 900-page serial novel, and then gives Ammo a comic book. Even if Ammo isn’t in the NBA next year, I hope he just sticks around the team and flies with them everywhere.

    For Warren – 3rd better then never, I guess.

    I have a feeling Kobe will come out pissed, focused, and firing. Let’s see how the efficiency plays out over 48 minutes.

  4. Last night was the first time I have ever not gotten a comment through moderation (It was because I said Pau should have dunked that “poop”). Anyways, I am improving my language as I hope the Lakers improve their play in the paint.

    Most importantly, I will be at the Garden tonight (wearing my Kobe roadie). I live in NYC and my fiance buys me tickets every year when our favorites come to town (believe me, I never wanted to leave the building last year when Kobe went bonkers). I am so excited. Hope everyone enjoys the game.

    Let’s go Lakeshow!!!

  5. With 3 back-to-backs on this trip, the physical stamina of the team will be tested every bit as much as the emotional and spriual stamina. No one expected us to go 8-0 on this trip, but starting off 0-2 would not be great. I see Kobe being the master facilitator tonight as his big men try to make up for their no-show in Cleveland. I also expect us to romp. The team knows they let one slip away last night and will pound it low and take it to the rack. Go Lakers!

  6. does anyone know if we lead the nba in blowout/20 point victories

  7. If you can’t get a good laugh out of the Hollinger rankings today, well I guess unintentional comedy isn’t your thing.

    Looking forward to seeing a fired up Laker team tonight. I expect a big game from Gasol.

  8. As far as Hollinger’s new ranking us #1, I guess a close road loss to a great team did it for us, huh? The bench will have to come forth and be a factor this road trip, PJ cannot play the starters anywhere over, or at 40 minutes a game for 7 more games with back to backs added in the mix.

  9. I am new on this blog but why do people say “this one’s for warren” on the comments of every preview and chat

  10. 9. When Warren comments first (a couple of seasons ago), the Lakers always won the game.

  11. Aaron, (there’s another Aaron here, too) Warren will no doubt explain it to you later in the comments. (he’s in the philippines) but it’s a good luck superstitious thing, and a tradition we like to try to maintain.
    re: tonight, I kept reading today about how PO’d Kobe was, at his teammates too, so that will have to be dealt with by everyone, so I expect a fired up team tonight, I’m sure both KB and PJ are managing that.

  12. Gasol is donating $1000 for every point he scores tonight to http://clintonbushhaitifund.org/ tonight.

  13. wow there are more lakers fans at MSG than at Staples

  14. What’s Pau’s FT shooting % this season?

    Nevermind, announcer just said – 86%. He’s missed his last 4 =/

  15. Great pass to Pau there from Bynum but Gasol couldn’t convert it.

    Sometimes, usually, Pau shoots while going away from the rim, even though he was under the rim and could have dunked it pretty easily.

    Frustrating.

  16. This team plays no D! None!

  17. zirk, this team is 2nd in the league in defensive points per 100 possessions. that’s pretty good for a team that allegedly plays no D.

  18. jaybird, i was talking about tonight’s game so far…

  19. oh my are the knicks bad at defense

  20. Neither team has played any sort of defense so far.

  21. gasol should be dominating

  22. I hope the Lakers dont think this is a team where they can just turn it on in the second half and win, the Knicks are offensively capable of scoring just as many points as they are.

  23. Glad to see we are making Jordan Hill look like rookie of the year when the guy has barely gotten any clock all year.

  24. Would you be shocked if that WAS their mentality? I certainly wouldn’t be.

  25. Shannon continues to look for his shot nearly every time he has the ball (at least it seems that way).

  26. Brown continues to fire it up way too quickly. Some of those shots are going in, but come on, Pau is being guarded by Jordan Hill!!!!

  27. No Zirk, I wouldn’t you and I seem to be on the same page regarding this team right now.

  28. James, Gasol should be dominating, but the guards need to get him the ball, but the Lakers are living on the perimeter. Lakers ignoring the mismatches.

  29. some effort on defense would be nice in the second half

  30. Lakers8884, I’m right there with you. So so frustrating! Tied with the Knicks at the half? It’s the Knicks! And giving up 63 points in a half? Wow!

  31. Has anyone else noticed that Artest has been money from three when he gets his feet set before receiving the pass ever since he got his head right? He’s even been knocking them down from the corner, where he’s been historically inefficient. Hope he keeps it up.

  32. I hope the Lakers do not go away from Bynum in the 2nd half

  33. kurt,

    as much as i agree that we need to exploit mismatches.
    i don’t think offense is the root problem here. not when we are shooting 56% and 64% from 3pt.

    it’s our defense.
    although i have no idea, what’s the problem.
    is it the bad pick and roll defense?
    is it the lack of energy to box out when rebounding?
    is the the lack of quickness to prevent penetration?
    is the help defense?

    we miss rambis, that’s for sure though.

  34. We are shooting a much higher percentage than the Knicks. The problem is twofold: They have 8 offensive boards, and bigger yet they have 0 turnovers. Basically, they have no empty possessions. That is the Lakers being passive on defense, and Bynum (and Gasol to a lesser extent) not dealing well with being spread out away from the basket.

    This is what it is like being the defending champs on the road, other teams bring the A game and you can’t bring the C game and win. Well, except against the Nets.

  35. Kurt,

    That’s what’s so frustrating. Why do we bring our C game so often? Whether it’s for a qtr, a half, an entire game, whatever. Being the experienced champs we are, we should know by now that we need to take it up even another notch because every team is gunning for us. It just seems like a mentality issue so far this year. Yes, it can be corrected, but it’s already game 43!

  36. Kurt, This is what it’s like when you don’t play a lick of defense in a half.

  37. I hope this doesnt come down to the fourth quarter, and KB trying to take it all on his shoulders. Somebody mentioned a link on the last post about how #24 is like a very stern father, who can turn his children into timid souls. Its as if the team sees the KB making the same mistakes and are now questioning why they actually listen.

  38. 36. The players last night were intimidated by Shaq not by Kobe. Last night Kobe was like the Dad who couldn’t get his kids to mow the lawn or take out the trash.

  39. Can something invisible look terrible? I refer to our defense of course…

    And Gasol looks horrible tonight.

    And with Artest, how can anyone with a 3 point shooters touch have such terrible feel around the rim in the paint?

    And with Kobe, calling your own number as often as he does really has to be backed up with makes or eventually your teammates will notice, and be annoyed.

    And lastly, I would take 5-3 or even 4-4 on this road trip the way we look so far…

  40. @38, with artest, i never watch him close enough before.
    but it seems he doesn’t have hoops, his vertical leap is almost walton-like.

    gasol is just not playing to his optimal capability right now.
    maybe it’s just a temporary funk.
    bynum on the other hand, showing improvements though.

  41. Man, Pau can’t get a break at the line. Some tough rims.

  42. This will probably come down to the last shot. What about Lamar’s headband, I do not remember him ever wearing one before.

  43. Wow – horrible call against Farmar there. He played perfect defense the whole way.

  44. @42, and after farmar called for the bogus foul. kobe is giving encouragement, that farmar is doing the right thing.

  45. You know, we call out Shannon and Jordan for their shot selections, and I too agree that they shoot out of the flow of the offense too often… but with the way Kobe has been shooting of late, I’m starting to feel okay with those guys taking their shots (at least tonight, they’re 3/4 and 3/5, respectively).

    And I also thought Farmar was playing solid D there. Refs love to bail out perimeter players when the defender is playing them tight. No fun.

  46. Keep in mind Artest has been bothered by Plantar Fasciitis and has never been known as a high/medium fly act. A bigger question is I wonder about Kobe’s health – he could barely get up for that open layup and he doesn’t seem to be moving as fluidly as he should. Either it’s his back or some other mystery illness. Regardless I find it interesting as it could be a glimpse of this Lakers team a few years down the road when Kobe won’t be able to carry as heavy a load.

  47. David Lee is such a solid player you have to admire the guy because he takes advantage of every bit of athletic ability he has.

  48. i want MVP Kobe back, where has he gone

  49. @46, i agree with you. i even almost feel like i want pj to bench kobe for jacking that 3pts, when he can give to ball to gasol who has lighted up in the last few minutes.

    sidenote:
    please keep hubie and jvg in the broadcast, they are awesome.
    hubie is very knowledgable and jvg is mixing it up with comedy.

  50. Anonymous, no kidding! Seriously! Yes, he has a broken finger. We get it. It’s painful, it’s restrictive, etc. Nobody’s arguing that. But what’s frustrating is that he played very efficiently, even sometimes great, with the injury for the first 20 games or whatever it was. What has happened over the last 10 games that we don’t know about because this string of AWFUL shooting games is killing us!

  51. I, and probably others, would love to be able to get David Lee. I was hopeful Mitch would get him last year. Not too likely I know, but none the less it is a nice dream. He would be a nice fit.

  52. That shot was more like it!

  53. The referees just screw POrtland at Boston, I think they were the only 3 people there that didn’t see Allen tripping over Fernandez, I know that you don’t like to talk about the refs, but I, being a neurosurgeon, can only imagine what would happen to me if I make such unexplicable mistakes at my job…..

  54. Um someone should tell Pau to make moves that quick against Shaq, that’s how you beat fat slow old men

  55. YES! Hubie Brown finally gets back into ESPN’s first team. JVG & Hubie, with Breen, it’s as good as it gets.

  56. interesting that brown has played much better defense than artest tonight

  57. As much as I hate it… it appears that the Lakers CAN turn it on against the Knicks when they need to…

  58. We did not need a 3, we miss it and then the Knicks get a layup. Down to 8 now with over three minutes to go, on your edge type of ball for sure…

  59. Gasol is having a very good 4th Q

  60. and kobe just jacks up another 3pts.
    sometimes i don’t get him.

    lee’s basket the other way after kobe’s miss is not gasol mistake for not coming back to defense fast enough.

    missed long shot is a good way to start a fast break, come on kobe, u know better than that.

  61. Hubie with the point of the night: this lineup has succeeded because of the spacing and speed the 3-guard lineup has produced. Farmar, Brown, Kobe, Odom, Gasol. Without Artest, no logjam underneath, and great quickness.

    And when Farmar has this activity on the perimeter, that lineup is also a strong defensive perimeter one.

  62. btw, is hubie just saying, artest is bad for the lakers because he cannot provide better spacing than brown?

  63. Kobe just can’t let Pau take all the glory. Going to Pau in the post has been working all quarter. But Kobe wants to take the shot.

  64. As annoying as it is at times when kobe just jacks up shots, we learned to live with it cuz when he’s healthy, those shots go in more often than not. But when you can barely hold onto the ball, maybe you should think otherwise. Not to mention, when your shot has been terrible for 10 games in a row, draining one three doesn’t mean you’re on fire!

  65. LOL Snoopy, 13thirtyone has a point. But that’s assuming Artest stays on the perimeter.

  66. 13thirtyone. How is that NOT Gasol’s fault? when you let your own man out hustle you down the floor it HAS to be your fault, don’t blame a long shot because long shots happen all the time but plays like that do not. You can blame bad team defense nobody stopped him but it was Gasol’s man he should have hustled back on defense, that’s why Phil was upset with him.

  67. Nice to see the Lakers spacing the floor down the stretch. The offense becomes five times easier that way.

  68. David Lee is like Pierce in that he scores using angles and craftiness and changes of pace, not any great athletic ability.

  69. Seriously, I’m digging this Brown-Van Gundy-Breen booth. As far as actual basketball analysis goes, it doesn’t get any better than this. Sure, Marv has all the flair, and Harlan’s voice might appeal to some, but these guys are actually basketball nuts. Gosh, I sound old.

  70. If David Lee were 4 or 5 inches bigger the guy could be one of the best centers in the league.

  71. @65, totally agree with you on that one.
    except we don’t need the long shot, do we?

    i will blame gasol if the shot clock winding down and we do need to jack up 3pts shot.
    but i just cannot blame him entirely for that, because he fight for good post position and kobe just jack up 3pts shot with jeffries in his face.

    fundametally, yes i agree with you, gasol should be back on defense no matter what the situation is.
    i’m just saying, we can prevent knicks from having a fast break opportunity by not shooting long shot.

  72. ShanWOW with the steal seals the win for the Lakers

  73. ShanWOW in action with the steal and a couple of FT’s added in.

  74. omg…

    please learn from our game with the cavs.
    when your bigman has a single coverage, you give the ball, if nothing comes up.
    you wait, and re-entry the ball.

    that’s what cavs do when shaq is having a single coverage.

  75. Hey Lakers8884, even though we played like crap again and struggled all night, because we won, does it mean that all is right now and that we shouldn’t be concerned anymore? Isn’t that the mentality us fans are supposed to have? As long as we win, who cares if we keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over? Afterall, it’s only game 43 of the season! Like me, I would think you still have the same concerns…

  76. David Lee with 31 and 17, solid considering the two big men he was playing against. Would LOVE to have this kid on the Lakers.

  77. That was some of the worst defense I’ve ever seen the Lakers play in the first 3 quarters.

    Also, Kobe’s shot selection has to be questioned. I notice Phil Jackson always yelling at Pau, Lamar and Farmar, but I never see him yell at Kobe. There has to be some kind of consequence for his bad shot selection at times.

  78. Nice 4th q by Pau, 10 pts, 5 reb, 2 asst and 3 blocks, but he didn’t look quite well the rest of the game…

  79. we could have made this game A LOT easier for ourselves if we (really, kobe) just continually pounded the ball down low to bynum or gasol.

  80. 77. There seems to be no consequences for #24 when he takes a bad shot. In some ways I think that is the thought process of every player on the team. The every man for himself attitude, and no ball movement and spacing. When the Spurs where at their best, it was well known that Pop would get on Duncan as hard as he would the 12th man. This made everyone on the team accountible for their actions, if he could check the superstar then no one was above the next. If Kobe is healthy his volume shooting doesnt create that big of a problem against teams, because of his ability to get hot at any moment. But while he has been hurt it has become a problem. Tonight was not that bad as far as shots taken, but in games past it has really gotten LA into a funk that they cant seem to shake.

  81. If the best team in the league has so many problems, what about the other teams, they must be doomed.

  82. Best team that has played the majority of their games at home. I give you that, but as far as best team in the league I cant give them the crown yet. LA has to show that they can play as a team, and stop playing as if they are owed something in return for last years success.

  83. I only caught a quick second of this game to check the score before heading out, but surprise surprise, van gundy was talking about the rockets.

  84. Zirk, I think you and DirtySanchez post 82 just said everything that’s been on my mind the past month and a half while watching this team.

    A win is a win yes, but at the end of the day if the same concerns keep popping up like they have the majority of the season then I question why everyone wants to continually downplay those concerns. They may not bite us in the rear against a team like the Knicks but against an elite team . . . . well we all know how that’s turned out so far. I am waiting to see how we perform in Boston though cuz I was at that game in Boston last year and I want to see if we go in there with the same determination and fire that we had last season.

    I want to add that to me this year it seems the Lakers feel they are owed the championship crown, as opposed to last year they felt they were owed RESPECT as a contender.

  85. Let’s refrain from “blame Pau for this” or “blame Kobe for that.” The fact of the matter is, this team is out of sync right now. I couldn’t stand to watch our defense for the first 3 quarters tonight. It seemed like Kobe was pissed off at Pau for some reason and wanted to do everything by himself while Pau looked a bit confused and hesitant in the 1st half.

    The Lakers’ shot selection leaves a lot to be desired, especially from Farmar and Brown. If we outscored in the paint by the NYK, how can we expect to beat the likes of Cleveland? Please dump the ball in the post, get good spacing, and run the triangle offense.

    If we can’t establish good rhythm on our offense by the end of the regular season, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of those Kobe-at-the-top-of-the-key plays in the playoffs when things go sour. I still have doubts about the Lakers’ #1 defensive efficiency because that’s just not who we are. But to struggle this mightily offensively has got to raise an alarm some time in the near future.

  86. I’m not trying to downplay the team’s poor performances in recent games, but I think the fans need to make sure the criticisms are constructive and solutions are realistic. The Lakers should be more dominant than their recent showing. They have the talent to do it. However, this team has had to deal with a lot of injuries and incorporating a key new player in Artest. Furthermore, trying to establish Bynum as a legitimate post threat hasn’t been a smooth process.

    Still, the team has shown that it can play well when each player does what he needs to do within the triangle system. Our offense will start clicking once players find their comfort zone when the rotation is set. PJ seems to be still exploring as he’s had to adjust his lineup and substitution pattern because of injuries.

    I think the Lakers have the best chance to win the title this season, but they do need to remember these things:

    1) It’s a new season. Last year’s championship doesn’t give them any advantage other than the fact that they now know what it takes. They need to realize that it will be harder to repeat.

    2) Team goals come first. Clearly, Bynum, Farmar, Sasha, and Brown are playing for individual goals as well as team goals. They need to make sure their individual goals must come within the team context. Some sacrifices need to be made by them. Kobe needs to lead by example every game.

    3) They must play with more intensity than the other team. We all know that Lakers’ best is better than any other team in the league. In other words, if the Lakers are playing at their best on both ends of the court, they will not lose PERIOD! It’s something Cavs, Celtics, Magic, nor Nuggets can say. However, we all know that Lamar, Pau, and Artest do not bring it every night. They know that their 80% effort can defeat 90% of the league. LO is the biggest offender in this, but that’s just who he is. I hope he brings it in the playoffs as he did last season. When LO plays to his potential, the Lakers game approaches that of the Showtime Lakers.

    It wasn’t too long ago when we applauded how beautiful Pau’s game was and how clutch Fisher is. Let’s hope and cheer that the team will re-discover the basketball excellence which they have the potential to show us.

  87. The Lakers fourth quarter got a lot better when they started running a pick to switch Jeffries on to Gasol, then posting him in sort of a two-man game with Kobe on the strong side. The problem prior to that was the lack of patience by the guards in not getting the ball into the bigs. Brown, Farmar and Kobe (the worst offender) were just happy to settle for the jumper. They just went in a lot. That and the Knicks, so concerned about the Lakers inside, did not do a good job running out on our three point shooters (we shot a high percentage because guys set their feet and got off the shot at their own pace).

    All that said, the defense was the real issue. Guys (not just the bigs but everyone) not getting back. The Knicks spread the floor then killed the Lakers with that baseline cut. Bad rotations.

    Stat of the night, Lakers took 70 of their 78 shots in the last seven seconds of the shot clock.

  88. Agreed, Lakers8884, last years teamed earned their championship contender status during the regular season. This year it seems some fans and players are content with being complacent and expecting to just turn it on come playoff time, instead of striking fear into the rest of the league like a team like the 72-10 Bulls team did. Yes we have had injuries but we’ve been reasonably healthy in statement games so far.

  89. Kurt, dont you think the stat of the night you posted has to do with alot of what Darius was mentioning about how the offense has become more of an isolation offense for either Kobe, Pau or Drew. It’s like we come down make two passes between the guards, hold the ball for a second until kobe, pau, or drew posts up and then they feed them the ball in the post and then whoever it be in the post takes their time on their moves (either waiting for the double to come or waiting for a cut). It’s like uncertainty of what everyone wants to do with the ball.

  90. Haha, a whole new meaning to “seven seconds or less.”

  91. Not a great game, frustrating to watch at times, but never got the feeling the Lakers were going to lose this one.

    *Pau seemed to have a very uneasy look on his face for much of the game, it seemed like last sour end to cav’s game was bothering him especially when he missed 5 of his first 7 free throws. Pretty tentative play throughout but he did much better late with very good 4th quarter on both ends though.

    *The Knicks did well to keep the tempo high enough that the Laker bigs couldn’t really dominate in the paint on the defensive end (how many times did Lee just drive right to the bucket for a layup?)

    *Kobe made some clutch shots, but at times it seems like he is actively working AGAINST the rest of the team on offense. Last shot in the 3rd, passed up great opportunity to get an assist and got swatted. And late in the game after the Lakers got their big lead by moving the ball inside out through Gasol, Kobe just tried to do it all by himself with jumpers. Guess it’s the flair for drama.

    *I do not understand why the bigs got so few touches overall against the knicks. Bynum had 19pts in 26 minutes, Gasol had 20pts on ten attempts vs a very small frontline that couldn’t defend.

    * It would be nice if Kobe took a few less shots each game while he’s dinged up. Thougha lot of guys are in a funk, the team has some great players, great coach and offense… but the team really needs improvement on spacing, ball movement and develop chemistry. there’s no need to force jumpers with a broken finger and bad back.

  92. Eric, I really think the 72 win crap was the worst BS that could have infected fans. It set up unrealistic and unreachable expectations that people are now disappointed the Lakers are not living up to.

    That is not to say they are playing at a championship level right now. They clearly are not. There are team playing issues that need to be fixed (and yes, Lakers8884, it has something to do with the isolation play and something to do with how bad they were at getting the ball in the post effectively, and also because the Knicks barely turned the ball over there was no easy transition points). But I think the thing is because this team has won I think there is time to turn it around. I think there seems to be a feeling among some Lakers fans like this season is a lost cause because the Lakers are not playing as well as last year yet. I think that is a mistake. It’s different to say they are not playing well now and to imply they are doomed because of it. And that is what a lot of the negativity feels like. I again think we should remember the 2001 team, which was not even the number one seed and looked iffy for large stretches of the season, but pulled it together late and went 15-1 in the playoffs and we remember them as dominant.

    Personally, as a fan, I tend to believe in hope. That this Lakers team can win a title. That it can come together in a way it is not now. That is different than ignoring problems. Some people clearly prefer a different approach. And it’s hard for me to understand that, to see people who decide Pau is still soft despite last season (or even how he played against Howard a couple games ago) or that this or that has doomed this team in January. Some people seem to enjoy negativity. I’m just not one, and I think there is a clash between those of us who want to believe that things can change and those who prefer the negative.

  93. Has anyone noticed that Artest can’t jump. I mean at all. Yesterday and today James and Chandler where taking jump shots without a hand. Chandler twice almost broke Ron’s ankles with fakes. It appears to be all hype with him an defense. They won tonight when he hit the pine and Brown played. Sure he hit 3′s but his defense really hurts the team.

  94. Well, when we take out the Celtics at the end of the month, that moment will make everything OK in my book. Then this will have been a very successful roadtrip, shining with positives abound.

  95. Luke Walton needs to be on the court for 30+ minutes per game. The guy turns this team into a TEAM.

    Bynum needs to start playing more with the second team.

    Kobe needs to sit out for 1 month at least. WE need him HEALTHY for the playoffs.

    Pau is a great player.

    Odom is great, but needs to play great.

  96. Last night’s victory was a little demoralizing to me because its as big a game as we can face during the season. This victory had frustrating moments but isn’t anywhere near as troubling. The sky has not yet fallen, but its supports need a lot of strengthening and the longer they go without being reinforced the more frustrating it becomes.

    This new development of Kobe being pissed at everyone worries me. I don’t know how in depth the phenomenon really is from just reading Ding’s article, but he was reportedly screaming at Pau tonight, while PJ and Farmar are apparently having frequent battles.

    I understand people need to be held accountable, but who’s holding kobe accountable? I can believe that the team is better with him on the floor than off. He can still bring defense, playmaking and act as a decoy. But when the finger keeps him shooting 33% game it’d be nice if he’d recognize this and adjust somehow.

    The team has enough issues to work through without the additional challenge of him figuring out what he can and can’t do while on the clock. To an extent it feels like all the team’s issues come down to every player trying to figure out their place, and it all starts at the top with 24.

    THere is a lot of time, and last year the team didn’t actually bring it all together until game 5 of the Denver series, but they don’t have to drag us over the coals before getting there (and yes I realize they aren’t thinking of it in those terms).

  97. I think Ariza is drunk retweeting on twitter:

    HG_S2BF: “@tariza My boy Ariza, we need you back in LA, Artest 2 caught up in Hollywood. He aint shutting any1 down. Come back!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!”

  98. There’s been a lot of talk about Kobe’s shooting from a % perspective and from the standpoint of volume. I think we’re all seeing the same thing – Kobe is not reducing his shot attempts and his % is not very good either. This has led to questions about Phil’s approach with Kobe and why he doesn’t get the same amount of grief that Farmar gets. That LO gets. That even Pau gets. I think the answer to that is both simple (and somewhat of a double standard): he’s Kobe Bryant. Phil can be a lot of things to us fans – both brilliant and innovative while being frustrating and confusing at the same time. But I’ll tell you one thing he’s not – unaware.

    I truly think he understands that Kobe is sometimes too agressive, too confident. But I think he also understands that these traits are what make Kobe the player that he is and you live with the good and the bad because you trust the player. Especially the player that is the driving force behind your team. Behind your championship team. I’m going to rattle of some shooting stats, so excuse me if this gets a bit tedious:

    FGA/FGM:
    Player 1 – 5/17, 9/20, 8/20, 11/25, 10/28, 5/11, 16/34, 9/24, 13/23, 14/31, 11/21, 7/17, 11/19, 13/20, 7/25

    Player 2 – 16/30, 14/26, 13/27, 6/12, 9/23, 10/30, 14/37, 4/21, 7/10, 5/11, 10/20, 4/19, 12/31, 8/24

    Player 2 is Kobe Bryant’s last 15 games. That’s 8 games that are right at or above 50% shooting. The 7 that aren’t represent some pretty poor nights, I’ll admit. But in those other 8 games, he’s been pretty damned good, I’d argue. Player 1 is Michael Jordan in a 15 game stretch during the 1997 season (2nd title season in the 2nd three-peat run) from late February to late March. Jordan showed more consistency than Kobe, but I’d say that his volume of shots and his overall %’s are very similar to what Kobe has done in this stretch where many have been disappointed in his play.

    I bring this up not to start another debate on Kobe vs. Jordan as players in a historical context. But I do bring it up because Kobe and Jordan play/played the same role(s) for their respective teams. And, within the context of that role, they have the same respect from the coach that they’ve shared. Phil is not going to tell Kobe to shoot less just as he was not going to tell Michael to shoot less. Not when Kobe is a 13 year veteran and MJ was also in his 13th year. Both of these players had the same m.o. and had (essentially) the same role within this offense. So, rather than go after his top guy, Phil is going to ask the rest of the team to do what they’re supposed to in order to help the team win. That means calling out the other players after Kobe takes 37 shots in a loss by saying that they can’t defer to Kobe so much (because #24 will take the opportunities that you give him). That means calling a timeout to grill Farmar about what he should do on a particular play to get it in that player’s head that he needs to do the right thing more often (which, hopefully, will lead to the player actually listening and running the offense – something that will result in more shots for other players, btw). It means emphasizing what can be done by others because *those* players need to be told what to do. The Kobe’s/MJ’s don’t need to be told. This may sound off, but it’s true – those Kobe’s and MJ’s and Shaq’s and Pippen’s are going to play their game no matter what their teammates do so getting their teammates to do what they need to do to make the *team* its most effective is the tact to take.

    One thing I’ve learned about Kobe after watching him for all these years is that he wants to win first and be your friend second. Over the last two seasons, he took the steps that (I think) he thought would lead to a better team – more hands on leadership, more taking players to the side, more explaining, a friendlier demeanor. And it worked to the tune of two straight Finals appearances and a championship. But, what I’m seeing now is Kobe going back (not reverting, mind you) to a mindset of “these guys should know what it takes now” and acting accordingly. He’s not going to hold these players’ hands this season. And honestly, I don’t see too much wrong with this. The rest of the guys should know now. The Lakers returned an entire championship team save for one player (Artest). This group knows what it takes and needs to start playing accordingly.

    Yes, it takes two to tango. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pau got it going in the 4th quarter against the Knicks when Kobe deliberately fed him and went almost exclusively to the two man game that Kurt described in an earlier comment. And maybe it will take more of that from Kobe to help aid his team along this path. But, in the end, the entire team needs to take ownership of the game. Kobe, despite what people may think of his decision to shoot the shots he’s taking, is doing just that. The other guys need to insert themselves into the game more. Force the issue a bit more. Go away from Kobe when they think it’s the right choice. But do it by running our sets. By feeding the post. By cutting hard. By making quick and smart decisions with the ball. By being more mentally tough and rising to the level that is needed for a repeat champion. Are we there yet? No. But I think we’ll get there. And I think Kobe and Phil are doing exactly what is needed to get us there.

  99. Wow Darius, I am glad that I checked FB&G before calling it a night, that is some insightful talk you have done here, and was needed about now with what we are seeing on this Lakers team. I thought player 1 was Kobe until I continued reading on. That comment should be in a post for sure…

  100. Kurt – I don’t believe us critical fans believe the season is lost. If we thought that we wouldn’t bother staying up late (I’m on the East Coast) to watch all these regular season games.

    I think the fact that we come on here and vent shows how passionate we are and how much we want the Lakers to succeed.

    Yes we remember the 2001 season where the Lakers played at such a high level in the playoffs after a so-so regular season. I can’t speak for everyone else but I truly never got the impression in ’01 even with their regular season struggles that any other team could be the Lakers in a 7-game series. This season I believe a healthy Cleveland or Boston team can dethrone us…..that doesn’t mean they will.

    As for Pau Gasol we will have to agree to disagree. You seem to want to focus on his matchups with Dwight Howard only. It’s not just us Lakers fans who think he plays soft either. The NBA analysts point to it as well. I watched SportsCenter two nights ago after the Cavs lost and the anchors were poking fun at Gasol’s softness as well.

    If I come across as too negative, then I apologize. I’m a die hard Lakers fan who wants things to turn around. I don’t focus on their record, but more of how they’re playing. I’m just not confident that they are spacing the floor well enough or healthy enough to beat Cleveland or Boston if we were to get to the finals. I am confident things can change and definitely want them to change. GO LAKERS!!!!!

  101. @99-

    Well-put, as always, but I would add this caveat: Jordan never had two 7′ guys who could score and certainly never had a low-post threat like Gasol playing alongside him. Now, due to the interdependent and fluid nature of basketball, you can’t just reduce things to, “Hey, Kobe was 8/24 and Pau was 7/10 and Bynum was 7/11! What’s up with that??!” Kobe’s ability to create offense from anywhere on the floor means that he should have a high usage rate, and the attention that he draws makes it easier for the big guys. At the same time, though, if he is putting up 4/19, 12/31 and 8/24, three straight games, it is reasonable to criticize him. I think it is correct to understand that Jackson sees things we don’t, but Phil isn’t Nostradamus. He misses things and makes mistakes like everyone else.

    As to the “clash” Kurt mentioned: certainly, the team CAN win a title as constituted. But I don’t think many would bet on it the way they are playing right now, and I am not certain that a team with this many veteran players playing heavy minutes is one that we should assume will be able to hit a different gear in April, May and June. As I and a few others said in the last thread, the Lakers really made no progress from the first game with CLE to the second, and they have had trouble beating top teams. Contrast this with last year, when they took out Boston on Christmas Day and swept the Cavs (yes, they lost twice to ORL). And I still think Kobe’s minutes are excessive, and that Phil should use Bynum more with Odom and Walton as part of a “second unit”, that gives Pau and Kobe more rest and gives Bynum more looks inside. Walton is a 10-15 minute guy, not a 3-5 minute guy. Maybe Phil wants him to get in better game shape.

  102. Darius, I second sT’s compliment. Your post puts Kobe’s, Phil’s and the rest of the team’s current stretch in perspective. It also exemplifies what I think Kurt was talking about @92 when he said he believes in hope vs the negativity that some comments display. The ability to objectively analyze the Lakers’ play, good and bad, without sinking into negativity is what makes this site so great. Thanks for the insight!

  103. Rudy, re: Pau being soft, I think Aaron hit the nail on the head here: Gasol is a power forward. Calling him soft because he can’t cover Shaq — whether done on this blog or by a national pundit — misses the point. It’s a mindset that says “he is 7-foot so he must play in the post, back to the basket.” I don’t see it that way. I don’t think Dirk Nowitzki should be blamed for not being able to cover Shaq in the post either, or the 6-10 Lamar Odom. These guys are forwards. Gasol happens to have such a diverse offensive game he can play very well in the post, but to convert that to “he is a traditional center and should be able to defend traditional centers” is a leap I will not make. I see it as he is a four who, when forced to defend fives, does it well sometimes and not as well others. But that is what you get when you play a guy out of position. However, to decide from this he is “soft” is to me a simplistic and silly way of looking at it.

  104. Kurt – I agree with you in labeling Gasol as a power forward but we can’t give him all this credit for doing such a good job at center when Bynum was out, but then when he doesn’t do well against a center label him as a power forward. He is 7’0″ tall and if I’m not mistaken he did play center at Memphis. There are teams in the league that don’t even have a 7 footer.

    I don’t expect him to bang with guys on defense who outweigh him by 100 pounds. When I say Gasol is soft it is more for how he gets intimidated on the offensive end. The end of the Cavs game was a perfect example of that. He had opportunities to go up strong and at least if anything draw a foul, but instead went up finesse.

    Just read Kobe’s post game comments. “The mentality has to change a little bit playing against these teams. These teams are physical, tough-minded, hard-nosed types of teams. That’s not part of our DNA. We have to step up and match that and still play skillful basketball.” He’s obviously not going to single anybody out but he has to be talking about Gasol there.

    I don’t want to keep harping on Gasol because he’s an exceptional player and obviously very important to our team, but I feel that he can’t keep playing soft making finesse moves in the post against more physical players because it’s just not gonna work. In the rare occassions where we don’t actually have a big advantage in the post he has to find a way to be a factor in other ways such as hitting that face up 10 foot jumper that we know he can make or grabbing some offensive boards.

  105. Kurt, I never thought the 72-10 record was reachable and I was one of the people saying at the beginning of the season it’ll be very unlikely a team ever breaks that record again.

    You read my post wrong, what I said was that the Bulls team that year everytime they went on the floor they struck FEAR into whoever they played, they were consistent the entire season and when they faced an opposing team they were ready for whatever they faced and their opponents knew they were facing the best team in the league. This year the Lakers have been inconsistent (through injuries, a stretch of bad defense or whatever else etc.) This year when the Lakers step out on the floor, we dont really know what team might show up. That’s all I was saying.

  106. Darius, I thoroughly enjoyed your post, you continually bring up some very impressive statistics to support your arguments.

  107. 99 Darius,

    For your MJ/Kobe comparison, take the number of attempts only and calculate the mean and standard deviation. Then establish a criterion for number of attempts consistent with the offense for each player.

    The argument is that the standard deviation is too high for Kobe–and he overreaches his criterion too often.

    One way of testing that is to look at team effeciency as a function of Kobe’s attempts. Maybe as his # of attempts go up, both team shooting per cent and likelihood of a team win go down.

    It seems to be inescapable that being a volume shooter beyond a certain point is bad–whether we are talking about Kobe, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, or Labron James–even without back spasms and two damaged fingers.

  108. Kurt is frustrated by all of the negativity he sees here. (well, I won’t try to deny him his feelings; it is his bleeping blog! : ) Having said that (ATTN, here comes the denial), I admit to being frustrated by some of the continual Polyannaish attitude to be found here. And, due to (and deferring to) the former, I’ve been thinking about these antithetical frustrations.

    We’re told that “because this team has won I think there is time to turn it around.” This is precisely where I see a problem. For whatever reasons (and there seem to be a plethora of them – if there were just a couple we could perhaps pin them down and worry them out constructively(?)), the last two months has seen little to base this notion on.

    Last season they were champions. The season before they weren’t. Now, contrast and compare these two seasons, or these two teams if you will. Which season/team does this year’s more closely resemble?

    This is what concerns me the most. Maybe we need to consider the possibility that *last year was the outlier. Maybe all the stars were in alignment for success last year and this isn’t really dynastic material that we’re seeing here – one and done, as it were.

    I’ll slide into my room for a timeout now…

  109. I’m just going to echo what Kurt and a couple others have said. In 2001 the Lakers were 48-26 going into the last couple weeks of the season. Nagging injuries, erratic play, and an overall sense of championship-hangover complacency contributed to the sense of general underachievement, and a lot of people were questioning whether the championship itself (which was earned after getting past Portland in the WCF by a fingernail) was somehow a fluke.

    Then the Lakers went 23-1.

    Not trying to whitewash some of the team’s struggles now, or excuse them from doing the work they need to do in order to get back to where they need to be, but I don’t see how anyone can argue that the leadership on this team – Phil and his staff, and Kobe – hasn’t been through this grind before and doesn’t know how to peak in the playoffs.

  110. I can’t believe how many morons make such a big deal of Kobe being the youngest to reach 25,000 points. If Chamberlin, Jabbar, Malone, Jordan and Shaq hadn’t spent 4 years in college do you understand how young they would have been ? Totally phony record.

  111. Negativity on the blog. I think some criticism of poor play is justified – but perspective is needed. The Lakers have the best record in the league and are four games up on the nearest rival in the West (and that is with a serious visit from the injury bug). Talk about areas from improvement, but enjoy what we’ve got, too.

    Gasol – the soft term is just plain dumb. He is not soft. His style is not a physical banging style. How many of you want to see him bulk up to a nice and solid 300 lbs? He is not going to outmuscle guys that are a lot heavier and stronger than he is.

    That said, Gasol is bothered by physical play. That is the way to take him out of his game. He doesn’t need to get more physical so much as he needs to stay aggressive and use his skill to beat the bangers or draw fouls (sometimes he tends to back away and settle for face up jumpers).

    I would also add that saying he is a four and not a five is not really true. On the Lakers he is expected to play both positions (who is Andrew’s back up?), he just brings a different skill set to the five. No need to make excuses for him. He just has to learn to stay aggressive and play through the physical stuff (not be more physical himself). That is what the Eastern Conference is going to throw at him.

  112. I think it’s worth remembering that Kobe’s finger injury actually makes it harder for him to handle and pass than it does for him to shoot. That may make him reluctant to force passes in traffic (resulting in a bad shot instead). Even if he intends to pass, he may be changing his mind at the last second because he can’t get a good enough grip on the ball.
    That doesn’t excuse his poor shooting volume (since rest really is an option), but it might help explain it.

  113. What bothers me is the tone that some people use when describing players. For instance: When Pau has a bad game (and god knows he doesn’t have them very often), it sounds like he’s total crap and that he basically should be traded for some Charles Oakley-type player.

    I mean, I can understand these simplistic views from a guy like Reggie Miller who desperately wants to portray himself as a tough guy and who also likes to pick on foreign players since he wouldn’t want to hurt his relationship with the American ones. But from Laker-fans who see Pau play, and play well I might add, almost every night? This amazes me.

    Also, I’m totally with Kurt. Sure, this team isn’t playing to its full potential right now; but if I had to bet my life on a team winning the title, the choice would be easy.

  114. Andreas, good points. I think the tension comes from this — we all know just how fine a player Pau is, especially on the occasions when he is put into the position to play center and steps up (as he does usually against Dwight). So maybe some of the fans ire is more aptly aimed at Bynum, who, when faced with big, strong centers like Shaq, can’t stay out of foul trouble or otherwise is ineffective, thus making us play Pau out of position.

  115. VoR, the best record in the league means nothing in comparing Lakers to other elites because they have not been on the road very much compared to other teams. After this road trip we can see how the record looks, but the record we have right now we should take with a grain of salt. We’ve have beaten the teams were were supposed to beat, but we haven’t quite beat the quality teams we beat last year.

    And Phineas thats’s a huge part of my frustration, Bynum played great last night yes but he was playing against a PF, he needs to show he can go toe to toe with elite centers in the league and so far he has yet to prove he can stay on the court when we really need him and this goes back to last year too.

  116. Lowder333- #111,

    You fail to mention that Kobe started his career coming off the bench on a veteran team. If he were drafted by a lottery team and got the starting gig ala Jordan, he would have reached 25,000 points a while ago.

  117. Darius, 99 – Actually, I think there are some problems with Kobe’s change in attitude. Good leaders often adapt to the nature of their followers. Kobe holding others accountable is great – but the constant barking may be more destructive than constructive. I’m speaking, of course, about Pau. I’m not sure how well Pau will respond to getting screamed at after every play.

    There was a play in my mind last night that stuck out. Kobe threw a bullet to Pau wide open underneath, and Pau bobbled the pass. The look Pau had on his face – without even looking at Kobe’s reaction – was one of mixed fear and a lack of confidence. Nervousness is not a good thing in a basketball player. I am always on the side raving about how great Pau is, but I’ll admit he’s not the most mentally tough player in the league. If Kobe’s constant screaming rattles him, it may get inside his head and work against the team.

    Kobe screaming at him to power through physical play is one thing. But I don’t see screaming and dirty looks after missed FTs or a bobbled pass really helping Pau make FTs the next time down. I can only see it hurting.

  118. 99- Darius- I trust Phil to do whatever he chhooses. That’s not my concern. My concern is when Kobe starts letting it be known that he’s going to make life hell for everyone else on the team for, apparently, failing him against the Cavs. As stated in the Ding article it sounds one sided. Yes Pau missed free throws and Verejao wasn’t boxed out, but Kobe dominated the ball and took some awful shots in crunchtime. Shots he hasn’t practiced and should not have expected would go in.

    If he’s going to yell at others, or hold them responsible, it’s only going to be effective if he’s equally held responsible- especially given how much bigger Kobe’s role is than anyone else.

    If I was Pau in this situation I’d either give Kobe Hell back or just shut myself off from the whole situation and become less motivated all around.

    And that’s why I’d rather see Pau scream back “I’ll take care of my business when you stop jacking up such terrible shots with a broken finger!” Because if PJ isn’t going to do it, and Kobe isn’t doing it who does hold 24 accountable?

    And if nobody is, then going off screaming at everyone else is just going to alienate people.

  119. Great stuff from Brian Kamenetzky over at Land O Lakers:

    I just don’t like The Great Toughness Question. It’s too amorphous, too vague, too easy an answer to slap on any situation in which the Lakers under-perform.

    The Lakers aren’t Hell’s Angels on hardwood or anything. They’re not the bouncer at the bar, they’re certainly not the cooler. Instead, the Lakers are a highly skilled team operating best when they play to their strengths. Fans shouldn’t want them to turn every game into a street fight. No question the Lakers, Gasol in particular, were outworked and oddly passive, but at the same time have won plenty of games played in the mud over the last season-plus.

    Physically, at least, I don’t think the Lakers are any less tough than they were last year. Adding Ron Artest generally doesn’t do that to a squad. As I wrote yesterday before the game, they’ve lacked the rhythm and continuity to play up to full potential, making them look ugly, disorganized, and yes, passive in the process. As a group, they’re not yet sure of how to consistently get from A to B on the floor (it’s all relative, of course- keep in mind we’re talking about an elite team where expectations are high and the margin of error small).

    http://ow.ly/ZKde

  120. for those not motivated to take the link, here’s BK’s poll:

    Do the Lakers have a toughness problem?

    Yes. They’re just too soft as a group, and Thursday’s game showed it. (24%)

    No. They’re the same group that won a title last season, and just aren’t playing their best right now. (47%)

    Sort of. They’re fine physically, but lack mental toughness. (29%)

    that’s a 53% ‘negative’ rating. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…

  121. 109) lakers…mikan,
    Certainly is a possibility that last year was the outlier. I think the assumption was that this year they were going to be better than last year because Artest is better than Ariza and they would essentially be adding Bynum to a team that won the title. Artest is still figuring out how to fit in, and the injury set him back. Bynum, so far, seems to be subtraction by addition, though.

    Kobe still doesn’t seem to realize that the team does better when he stays within the offense, and that there are times when it would be better NOT to play.

    PJ has a history of getting teams to peak at the right time, and letting players figure things out themselves, but there’s a danger to that approach, too. What if they don’t figure things out themselves?

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  122. If you can’t see that Pau is soft, then you aren’t looking very hard. He’s an immensely talented guy (probably the most talented 7-footer in the game), but his instinct is to shy away from contact. Call that a criticism if you must, but to me that is simply an observation of fact.

    For the record, I did not claim that Pau was soft because he couldn’t handle Shaq in the low post. I called him soft for his two incredibly weak attempts from about 2 feet away, with the game on the line (at least one of which was blocked by a small forward). As for Pau being a forward rather than a center, I agree, although that is precisely why I criticize anyone who throws out the “trade Andrew for Bosh” nonsense. Pau can play the center position pretty well, but he’s still just a forward.

    “Soft” doesn’t mean “not great”. Pau is a great player, and nobody argues that. Soft means that when the game is on the line, on the road, against a team that whacked you on Christmas, when you get the ball 2 feet from the rim with a chance to take the lead late in the 4th quarter you attack the defense and try to dunk the ball. That’s not what Pau did against Cleveland, and it isn’t what he does on most nights. Instead, he put up two incredibly weak (soft) shots that got blocked–at least one by a small forward. Sorry, but that’s soft.

  123. 114 Andreas, i dont think anyone is picking on Gasol cos he is not American. The “soft” tag is an easy one to slap on Europeans and foreign players cos they dont play the bang-it-out style.

  124. Chownoir (was J) January 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Here’s what I don’t get about the whole Pau is soft argument. If you are going to take that route, then care to explain what changed between last year and this year?

    Last year, the first regular season Boston game, Pau came up huge late in the game with a big block and some scores. He battled. Many people said that was a turning point. The rest of the regular season and in other statement games, he put up amazing numbers and clutch plays. Did the same throughout the playoffs. I don’t recall one big situation where he came up “soft”.

    So what has changed? Someone from the Pau is soft camp want to explain that to me?

    Me personally, I don’t buy that junk. I think the whole team has been disjointed due to injuries and just haven’t had a chance to play together. There’s no comfort level to fall back on. Last year’s team had a lot of time together in the court. When the pressure got turned up, they could fall back on instinct and rely on past experience working with each other.

    This year, what I see in this team is a lot of uncertainty even in the best of times. There’s no rhythm or flow for any extended period. So when the heat is on, they fall apart not because they’re soft. They fall apart because there’s no foundation to rely on. The lack of confidence and aggressiveness is not because they’re soft. it’s because they’re not sure what to do or what to expect from other teammates.

    This is what Phil is paid a lot of money to do. He needs to build this team. The question is will he have enough time to do that? Will the team be healthy together long enough to actually learn and build that foundation? Because if they’re not, they’ll still get by on talent, but when the heat is on and there’s no foundation, they’ll crumble. Not because they’re soft, because they don’t know what to do and can’t execute because of that.

  125. I think phineas makes a good point as well. I’m not a fan of ripping into any player, but I think Pau – for some reason – takes a lot of heat for things that can be attributed to Drew. I do think Drew gets shafted sometimes when he plays straight-up D (calls that Duncan would get away with), but his slow rotations often put him into foul trouble. And then Pau is left to shoulder a huge burden.

  126. I like this Laker team very much and am very happy that nearly the whole team from last year’s championship remains together. That doesn’t mean that I have any expectations at all for this team–only hopes.

    I hope that the Lakers win another championship, but it is entirely possible (though highly unlikely) that they might not even make the playoffs. I’m happy to enjoy the games one at a time–as they happen. This season, Kobe’s injuries (and determination to play through them) seem to have highlighted a problem I thought he outgrew last year.

    I’ve been most disappointed by “bad” Kobe taking too many shots –mostly in isolation, not in the triangle. Even in games in which Kobe shot a high percentage, the Laker’s margin of victory was far from a blowout.

    The composer Mozart was criticised for writing too many notes in his musical scores. Kobe might want to watch and listen to “The Magic Flute” to appreciate the value of restraint. Mozart learned.

  127. Re: Kobe’s Shot Selection

    Right now Kobe’s head is telling him he is 22 and his body is telling him he is 42. Right now he is playing like he has Smush, Walton, and Kwame out there with him and not Gasol, Bynum, Artest, and Odom. Phil might be a bad X’s and O’s coach and an uneven talent evaluator but when it comes to knowing how to handle his players I will never doubt him… never. Rick Fox once asked Phil why he wouldn’t reel in a 20 year old wild Kobe Bryant to which Phil replied “the only thing I can do to hurt Kobe’s career is take away that aggressiveness. He is always in attack mode and I never will take that away from him.” Whether Phil doesn’t want to take away that edge or if he thinks Kobe can only discover basketball communism alone… Phil most likely is right. And Kobe most likely will win.

  128. If you saw the critical possession in which Gasol had a chance to put us by two under the basket, you’d know why everyone is calling him soft. He ducked away from contact, TWICE. Just go up and get dropped, at least you will get two free throws. Of course, the fact that he missed two free throws later probably pissed more people off.

    The Lakers as a team isn’t soft. Also, don’t confuse “soft” with “weak.” Gasol is a skilled, fundamental player, not a low-post banger. With that said, #123 explained it the best I’ve seen. Gasol is a soft player. That is an observation, not a criticism.

  129. I have a question for all you “Pau Gasol is soft” observationists. Is Pau only soft when we lose? Or soft all the time? Was Pau soft against the Magic in the Finals last year? Or only against the Rockets, a team that we struggled against?

  130. Alright Kurt… I guess you don’t want any off color comments from me… so I guess I’ll just stick to basketball. Enough with calling Gasol soft. He is weak and can’t jump high anymore so yes he will be out muscled against strong and tall players around the basket. I don’t really think there are soft players in the NBA. A soft player to me is a guy who avoids contact without reason or too stay healthy. The only guy I know who does that is Dwayne Wade this year… but his reason is to stay healthy. I don’t see Gasol avoiding contact. I see a skinny guy with diminished leaping ability/agility

    Watch him this year as opposed to clips when he had short hair in Memphis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97eY_iXC_Ug

    When he now matches up against traditional centers he can’t out quick them as much as he could in the past and gets pushed around. The guy isn’t soft… he just isn’t a center and isn’t a powerful PF. It is kinda simple. How would KG do playing Center? We don’t know because I guess that 7 footer is “softer” than Gasol and nobody will play him there. Don’t mistake “weak” for “soft.” I mean you could I guess call his body soft because he is skinny and flabby. And you can call his game soft because he doesn’t have a power game. What I am saying is he does the best he can against real centers with what god gave him.

  131. Aaron, I dont mean to argue but the way you just described him, one would think that you were referring to some scrub in a pick-up game. Gasol is still an elite player in the NBA and one of the best in the world. He is credited with having the skills of a guard in a 7-foot body and, as such, is one of the 2 most skilled 7-footer’s in the game along with Dirk. Pau is not soft, he came up short in one game and people are overreacting about it. Instead let’s be grateful for his considerable talent.

  132. Yeah, isn’t it funny how when basketball players go from their early 20′s and hit the 30 year mark, what they used to do they just can not anymore. Their BBIQ is certainly leaps and bounds better though. In fact our whole Laker starting unit is in that same area of age now, except for Bynum. I like Gasol, in fact very soon I will be picking up a #16 jersey, to add to my collection of Lakers Championship and FB&G shirts, isn’t it just great to be a Laker fan in life.

  133. Wow! I can’t believe I missed such a heated run of comments. I won’t touch the whole thing about Gasol’s debated softness. I will say I think his energy level is just down this year. I believe all the basketball with no real resting time is starting to catch up with him.

    I will say this, as good as Darius’ breakdown was I still think Kobe is taking too many shots right now. I also think those shots are hurting the team’s offensive efficiency. Like one other poster said, MJ wasn’t playing with TWO scoring seven footers.

    I caught very little of the game. I just remember sitting in the food court at the grocery store watching Andrew Bynum set a screen for Kobe at the top of the key. Drew rolls and has a direct lane to the rim. He turns to get ready to catch the ball, but Kobe had already launched a jumper. Of course the Jumper clanged off the side of the rim and the Knicks got the rebound. The score was tied at this point and it was the third quarter. I had no desire to see anymore.

    I refuse to give up on my team. I don’t think I’m being negative. I am just calling what I see. Kobe Bryant is not 25 anymore. He can’t do what LeBron does, especially with a broken finger and strained back. It works both ways. The other guys need to remember what they did last season. But Kobe needs to remember it, too. These guys are who Kobe came to the dance with. There is no deserting them now.

  134. Who in the world would think that the season is lost while we have the best record in the NBA? The issue is how we are playing. We are not playing too well. Compare the way we are playing to the level we played when Pau first came back and we won like 11 games in a row. That’s how a championshpi team must play. IF we can get back to that, no one can beat us in a 7 game series.

    This is the middle of the season. The Lakers simply need to get their ducks in a row. All is lost? Hardly. This Lakers team is the most talented i’ve ever seen. It is actually unfair when you see their talent level vs the teams which they play.

    Once this season starts ending, I think PJ with his 10 championship rings, understands what steps to take in order for the Lakers to enter the playoffs playing at their best.

    If it was another coach, i’d be worried. But it is PJ. He knows how to get it done, as he’s working…PJ’s new motto, one for the pinky toe.

  135. #125, what has changed is that Pau has reverted to the player he was before last year’s first game against Boston. It really isn’t that difficult to understand, or see (if you watch him play). Pau is not naturally a physical player. He got destroyed by Boston in the 2008 Finals, so he (like others on the team) came into 2009 with a much greater commitment to playing physically. It worked. This year, that commitment is not there, at least not yet.

    This is not a criticism that emerges only when the Lakers lose, although when they lose it is often to teams that outwork them in the post so the criticism is often applicable after losses.

    Unfortunately, I think this year’s squad has bigger problems than Pau’s softness. Gasol showed that he can play a lot more physically when he puts the effort in. I would expect that to happen again this year, in the playoffs if not sooner. The larger problem is the big dropoff at the point guard position, and Kobe’s off the reservation approach to offense. Against the Knicks he shot well below 40% and still jacked up more shots that Bynum and Gasol combined. Not only is this a bad tradeoff (forced shots by a guy shooting under 40% over guys shooting 60% plus) but it demoralizes the big guys and that ends up affecting them on the defensive end. It shouldn’t, but it does.

    At the midway point of the season, I think this year’s team is not coming close to its potential. There is clearly time to right the ship, and I suspect that they will, especially since all of their problems (except the PG problems) are pretty easily fixable. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that they are playing far below their potential, and at the moment are not much better than an average road team–which is no way to prepare for the playoffs and home court advantage.

  136. Regarding Cleveland… If we were to see them in the finals I dont think we’d lose even after getting swept during the regular season.

    There’s no way Phil gets outcoached by Mike Brown in a seven game series with the Lakers roster.. Impossible

  137. Could it be that Gasol was making a conscious effort to go strong last year against physical teams after the 2008 finals embarrassment, but this year lost that hunger and is going back to his old self? Maybe the whole Lakers team isn’t as hungry this year after many of them had gotten their first ring last year?

  138. NO way we lose to cleveland in a finals series. NO WAY. The only way we lose is if Kobe and Pau get injured. Trust me guys, Kobe is just not losing to Lebron, I mean ever, whenever they compete with each other on a grand stage like that. Mark my words. Lakers have not hit their potential by any means, NBA watch out. No one messes with the Mamba and Artest getting a ring, especially not Lebron.

  139. Regarding Cleveland,

    I cannot not take those losses into very much consideration.With all due respect,still I believe under ”fair” officiating the results could have been different.

  140. @111

    It is quite something when you start on a veteran,perennial championship contender team and come from the bench for 2-3 years,after only you realize you are playing with a beast AKA the Diesel for 5-6 years more.
    How can people be suffering from short-term fish memory all the time is beyond my apprehension :)