Archives For January 2010

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
—Sinatra

I, Kurt Helin, am about to leave Forum Blue & Gold.

I tried about 256 ways to phrase that first sentence, but sometimes being direct is the best approach. Know first and foremost — this is a good thing for me and a good thing for the future of the site.

It’s good for me because I have been hired full time to start and write a new NBA blog for NBCSports.com. Not just Lakers but the entire league, and in a format that is proven to work (if done right). I feel like someone who got the call to head up to the majors — excited and a little bit nervous. But, like Nuke LaLoosh, I’ve practiced my cliches and learned to throw a punch with my non-typing hand (?) so I’m ready to go. You’ll hear and find out more about the blog when it launches on Feb. 8. But know that I am not disappearing, I will still be reading this site every day (and throwing in comments now and again).

The new blog is going to take up virtually all of my time, I couldn’t stay on here and do it right (plus, NBC doesn’t want me working for ESPN on the side anyway). After five years of building Forum Blue & Gold and living on this site every day, one thing I had to do was find the right person to take over the helm.

That is Darius.

The great basketball mind and long time amazing contributor to this site has agreed to step up and be the man. I couldn’t be happier, because I know he is going to do a great job and make this site even better, to help it evolve. I’ll let him talk about his own plans and goals, but I sort of picture him as Bono out in front of the band (and when I do that I’m picturing 1985, mullet and fur boots at Live Aid Bono).

But he wants more band members. That is where writers out there can come in.

Maybe you’re a master narrator who can compose a recap for the ages for even the most lopsided blowout. Or you might be a breakdown artist who loves dissecting the x’s & o’s. Or Are you a stat geek who wants to use all these cool advanced analytics to figure out what’s ailing the Lakers’ offense? A humorist who can tackle the most profound questions facing the team with gallows humor? Or you could be someone who just wants to add thoughtful observations to our community.

Send whatever you think we need to see (links, writing samples, proposals, references, errata) to lakersfans@forumblueandgold.com. And remember, I’ll be reading.

Time to start getting fired up for Sunday.

Preview & Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  January 27, 2010

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Records: Lakers 34-11 (1st in West) Pacers 16-29 (11th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.2 (9th in league), Pacers 101.6 (27th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102.1 (3rd in league) Pacers 106.6 (15th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pacers: Earl Watson, Luther Head, Brandon Rush, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy (Roy Hibbert could start instead of Rush)

Lakers Coming In Going quietly unnoticed through the recent rough patch is that the Lakers offense has been pretty good lately. The numbers have been consistently getting better in terms of points per possession in the last week or so (the Lakers have cracked the top 10 in the league). That was evidenced last night when the Lakers pretty much did whatever they wanted on offense to the Wizards. It was like a game last season where the offense was so good it didn’t matter much about the defense.

Which is good because the defense remains a concern lately — while the offense has gotten better, the defense has taken steps back. Teams are shooting 44% against the Lakers over the course of the season, but that has been 46% in the last 10 games. Last night Washington shot 51.2% and scored 115 points per 100 possessions. Those are high figures, it was just easy to look past them because the Lakers took control of the game in the second quarter.

But the Lakers right now are not putting it all together on both ends.

Pacers coming in: At the start of the season, I talked about the Lakers as a team with a large margin for error — they could win a lot of games if things did not go perfectly, maybe they could even win a title that way.

Indiana is what a team with no margin for error looks like. Things have to go just right for them to win.

Usually things go right when they go with their small lineup — Granger as the power forward (even though he may be a small three) and Troy Murphy as the center. That five-man unit may have areas you can attack, but they are far-and-away the best five-man lineup the Pacers have. And as you would think they run when they go small.

Pacers blogs Indy Cornrows has been great for years and check out 8 points, 9 seconds.

Keys to game: This is an interesting battle of styles — the Lakers are big with Bynum and Gasol and Artest up front, the Pacers go smaller than any team in the league. It is likely both teams will try to force the other to adjust first in terms of style and personnel.

The Pacers love to get out and run — they play at the second fastest pace in the league. Faster than the Suns and Knicks. The Lakers play fairly fast two and have good athletes on the floor, so they can run but they need to do so under control. If they get sucked into a game of PUJITs and poor transition defense (things they have done recently) they will be in trouble in a Canseco Field House that will be rocking. Also, take care of the ball, limiting turnovers will slow the Pacers down.

In transition defense, the Lakers have to talk, the Pacers are less about set plays and more about recognition of mismatches or guys sleeping then making them pay. Also, Murphy loves to trail the break then spot up for the kick-out three.

The Pacers foul a lot (second worst free throw to field goals ratio in the league). The Lakers need to attack the basket, get the ball inside and not settle for jumpers. More touches for Gasol, I love Danny Granger’s game but he is woefully outmatched there (and Gasol will struggle on the other end defending Granger on the wing, you could put Artist on Granger but then you have GAO on Brandon Rush). When the Lakers do take jumpers they should get good looks — opposing teams have shot 40% from three in the last 10 Pacers games. When they get the shots, the Lakers need to knock them down.

Where you can watch: 4 p.m. start here out west, on KCAL 9. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

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Records: Lakers 32-11 (1st in West) Wizards 14-29 (14th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.8 (10th in league), Wizards 105 (22nd in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.8 (3rd in league) Wizards 109.4 (23rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Wizards: Randy Foye, Deshawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antiwan Jamison, Brendon Haywood

Lakers Updates: Ron Artest was at shoot around today and will play tonight (likely getting a key matchup on Caron Butler). I will add that this is one guy who could benefit from the upcoming All Star break. A few days without the pounding on the hardwood will help the plantar fasciitis he is fighting.

Wizards coming in: Do I really need to go into the ugly details here? Well, I think we do on this point: While the Gilbert Arenas/Javaris Crittenton gun charges get the mainstream media attention, the team’s problems on the court are much deeper than that. The guys at Truth About It nailed this the other day.

It would be simple to cite constant themes of lacking energy and settling for jumpers and conclude that this team has quit on their coach, themselves, the franchise, and the fans. But these issues have plagued them since the beginning of the season. So, and pardon me if I’ve said this before, you technically can’t quit if you never start playing.

Early season issues arose from the players’ unfamiliarity with a new offensive system. That quickly beget reoccurring situations where they should have known the system, but didn’t trust it. The most recently evolution involves one of the team’s captains ignoring the coach and running his own play with the game on the line.

Wizards blogs Did I mention Truth About It?

Keys to game: We complain sometimes that the Lakers aren’t focused and can just win on talent and not teamwork, but it is nice to have a few of those on the schedule. Like when you’ve been struggling and need win. This should be one of those games. Should.

Both teams have had weak bench play of late — if one of them can get a good spark off the bench it will be a huge advantage. Mike Miller has been a Lakers killer, the Lakers need to focus on him. Also, Andre Blatche has a lot of talent when he decides to focus. Against the Lakers may bring his “A” game, and that could be a problem because he is long and more athletic than our bigs.

The Lakers need to communicate on defense tonight because Flip Saunders’ offense can score points when it is executed. Always has, Washington just tends to not execute it well. But Butler and Jamison have the talent. They love to set a wing up on the weak side, have run a strong-side pick and roll where the screener rolls to the weak side and the ball handler drives. The goal ball reversal (a problem for the Lakers with their current defensive scheme) and to get easy weak side looks for the wing (who can also set to the new post on the weak side, who should have deep position). Saunders offense needs ball movement, and when the Wizards do it they can cause problems.

Where you can watch: Early 4 p.m. start here out west, on KCAL 9 locally plus NBATV where you are. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

Do The Lakers Need To Make A Trade?

Kurt —  January 26, 2010

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When a team is not reaching its potential around the trade deadline, there is a temptation to want to “shake them up” with a trade.

The Lakers are not reaching their potential. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games, 1-2 on this road trip. They played better against a Toronto team that plays well at home, but it was still a better overall game from them than we have seen recently. It’s one of those things I notice in baseball (not sure if the stats would back me up) — when a slumping hitter is about to break out of that, they seem to go through a phase where they start hitting the ball hard but still make outs. They drill the ball but right at the shortstop, or the centerfielder robs them of a home run. Is that where the Lakers are?

Or, do the Lakers need to be shaken up?

That is always risky — shaking a team up for the sake of shaking things up rarely works out. It’s about needs, value and fit. For both teams (meaning don’t think that there are teams lining up to get Sasha Vujacic right now).

What if the Pistons called and offered Jason Maxiell for Adam Morrison’s contract. That’s what the guys at Pistons Powered asked me in an email, and I have to say it is tempting. Maxiell is going to make $5 mil a year for four more years. He is playing poorly this season, but is that a question of a bad team and no defined roll, could he return to the quality backup four he was the previous couple seasons? The 2008 Maxiell would be a good deal at $5 mil, this year’s version makes that a long-term problem.

I doubt Buss would do it; he’s not going to take on long-term salary for a role guy like that. But what do you think would work? Know that the Nets said Devin Harris is not on the block (they are not going to trade him until they have John Wall in camp, and with the worst record they would only have a 25% chance of winning the lottery). Nobody in Toronto, nobody with connections there, thinks Bosh is on the market.

What could the Lakers do to shake things up? Or should they?