Appreciating What You Have

Darius Soriano —  February 11, 2010

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Much praise has been heaped on the Lakers the last three games and it’s well deserved.  Almost every player that’s been available to play against the Blazers, Spurs, and Jazz has raised his game and it’s led to quality wins over teams that are serious foes.

The credit starts with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.  Simply put, these two players have shown why they are two of the best players, not only on this team, but in the league.  For Gasol, that praise is a given – he’s a super talented player that has every needed  skill on offense and is an underrated defender. I mean, have you seen his block totals from the last two games?  Not to mention all the shots he’s contested and altered.  For Odom, this praise may seem far fetched until you really examine his marvelous skill set and see all the different ways he can affect a game.  His ability to handle the ball and initiate the offense while also being a tremendous rebounder and defender are an amalgamation of basketball talent that any coach would love have on his roster.  Said another way, when your power forward and center can dribble like guards, move around the court like wing players, and play in the paint like big men, you’ve really got something.  But these players are not without their faults and at times those seem to be the traits that fans would rather focus on.  Both players are not overly physical and can be pushed around by more physically imposing players.  Both players have had their moments when they have not ‘shown up’ for games and left us wanting more from them.  Both players fade in and out of the ‘attack mode’ that has made so many other of our basketball heroes the unforgettable legends that we’d like every current star to emulate. But, I think we need to ask ourselves, what really matters more – the good or the bad?

This same type of examination can be made for several of our other players too.  I mean, I’ve been a person that has been hard on Jordan Farmar over the years.  To me, he’s shown too much hard headedness and an unwillingness in fitting his game into our offense.  For someone with so much physical talent, he’s played uninspired defense for long stretches that have hurt his team.  But, he’s also an explosive player with an athleticism that brings an added dimension to this team.  He’s an outstanding attack guard that can get into the lane and finish in the paint while also showing a capable enough jumpshot that either keeps defenses guarding him closely or makes them pay if they don’t.  You add to that better defense of late and a knack for making some big shots and I’m becoming a believer on Farmar. Against the Jazz last night, the Lakers lead had gone from 19 to 12 as the Jazz were making their push in the 4th quarter.  On the next possession, Farmar makes a three pointer from the extended wing that pushes the lead back to 15 – even the Jazz announcers were calling this a dagger – ultimately ending any chance at a Jazz comeback.  Farmar is helping this team and as a fan I’m learning that appreciating him for what he is will make me enjoy this season even more. Similar recognition could be given to Sasha for persevering through some very rough patches over the past two seasons to now playing well in limited minutes in recent weeks. Really, every player fits into this mold – no one is perfect. But too often, as fans we choose to either highlight one extreme or the other. Does it really have to be that way?

If you take this same approach to the macro level we can examine this team as a whole and see the same mentality currently taking hold.  Kobe and Bynum have (essentially, for Bynum at least) missed the last three games and in their absences the team has performed very well.  Better than expected, even.  But, does this mean that Kobe and Bynum aren’t important to the success of this team?  Of course not.  It may mean that roles need to be redefined and that playing styles need to be adjusted or re-examined in order to get this team to reach its full potential, but it doesn’t mean that either one of these players is any less valuable than what they’ve proven to be this season.  A season where Kobe has hit miraculous game winners or Bynum has come up big and helped lead us to victory. But, too many have seen the recent success and still want to assign blame. “Why can’t the team play like this all the time? It must be (insert either Bynum or Kobe)’s fault.” Really? Why can’t the credit be given to those that play with no blame assigned for what is gone and in the past?

My point in all of this is to appreciate what you have as a fan of this team.  With two fifths of our starting five missing this team has won some hard fought games with a level of teamwork and determination on both ends of the floor that should be applauded.  But, with the complete starting five, this same team had earned a first place position in the Western Conference and was tight on the heels of the Cavs for the best record in the entire NBA.  We Laker fans are spoiled at times – we have great players, an all time coach, and a franchise history that is one of the most celebrated in all of professional sports.  But too often we take that for granted and want even more.  We want perfection and rarely is that possible.  Over the past two seasons we at Forum Blue and Gold have talked about enjoying the journey.  I make that plea once again.  I will never tell anyone how to be a fan.  We all have our own view on things and respond differently to what we see when we watch the games.  But, as we go into the all-star break and prepare ourselves to root for this team down the home stretch and into the playoffs, I do ask that we forget for a moment what the team could be doing better and embrace what this team is doing well.  Because whether you look at the last three games or this season on the whole, they deserve that from us.

Darius Soriano

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85 responses to Appreciating What You Have

  1. Agreed on all points. I used to be on the slightly pessimistic side of the fence, but I see the light now. And I’m much happier because of it.

    The real key, to me, will be seeing how Kobe and Drew choose to play when they come back. Will the ball movement stop? Will Kobe be content to lay back and facilitate?

    Especially Lamar – I feel so much of his game is psychological. When he’s amped up to make up for Kobe/Drew, he’s unguardable. Will his energy wane once again once those 2 return?

  2. I think the issue with a team the caliber of the Lakers is that fans are like parents – they want them to achieve what they are capable of achieving. ANd when they aren’t doing, for reasons that seem to be within their control, the fans speak out about it.

  3. For Lamar, I suspect we will see some falling off when Kobe is in the game. My only suggestion is to let Kobe rest earlier in the 1st qtr and allow Lamar to function without Kobe for longer periods of time, particularly in the early part of the game. I think that might be a way to get both to function at a very high level together as the game goes on.

  4. With Rose out in Chicago, they could use a Jordan Farmar… and we could use a Kirk Heinrich in return. Just a thought.

  5. kobe is offically out of the all star game, to be replaced by..wait for it…..Jason Kidd! I know the west is short on guards but got to feel bad for boozer, and if ur giong for a guard why not baron davis.
    10 days of rest for kobe is great news

  6. one of the best posts ever on this site…

    very, very nice work and 100% correct

  7. OK, question:

    Since KB won’t be playing in the all-star game, will he still attend? What I’m really asking is will he still assist Shannon with his dunk on all-star Sat night as planned?!

  8. I think the Lakers can, “play like this all the time”. But that means some people get less touches (Kobe) and others have limited roles (Bynum). If you look at how the Lakers have been playing the last couple of days, they have been playing a full court TEAM basketball. Now the question is: should the Lakers be playing like this all the time? I dunno? I don’t think a full court offense and the sporadic play of Sasha, Farmar, L.O. will always be able to perform this well. The Kobe first triangle offense works, and wins championships. My hopes are that the Lakers can find something in between, those are my two cents.

  9. Thanks for the reminder that is often needed in the emotional up and down game that is basketball. I am always so happy to reflect back on the bigger picture and to think of what this Laker organization has accomplished recently, the personality of the players, the hard work and reward that has come about.

    As for this forum, I think the responses to any slight negativity can be exaggerated at times. Take the last comment thread, where pb and I both mentioned that Pau may be up and down for a few games, yet somehow this is over-extrapolated to be impugning his character. Additionally, there are comments that are in the mold of “I can’t stand all these comments about” Kobe being less valuable, Bynum clogging the paint etc. etc. when in fact there aren’t that many comments that are to that extent. There might be a few trolls here and there, but for the most part I think the sheer number of pessimistic comments are misrepresented in the “response” comments that are largely directed at this imaginary, alienable population of petulant fans.

    To identify ongoing trends is to be able to better appreciate them when they’re improved upon. I will be much more likely to notice the small maneuvers, footwork, intensity, fist pumps, and better able to take in the attitude changes the players like Pau have to undergo to play better. The players are experts, the coaches know the game. You can bet they know when they’re not playing well. I don’t pretend like I know what’s best for them.

    But without the dissection of what to do better, you can’t fully appreciate what is done well.

  10. Darius, you sure know how to put things in perspective. We fans often let our passion take us to extreme ways of thinking. It was extreme to think the Lakers would topple the 72 win mark. It is extreme to think they will blow out every team, every night. We often forget the 2000-2001 Lakers didn’t look much like champions until late April.

    The last few games has shown me that this group of guys CAN repeat. If they play their best game they can beat any team in the league in a best out of seven (including Cleveland). We just have to remember that each season is different. The competition changes. Our guys change, as well. It is a process. The guys are still figuring it out.

    Also, watching the last few games reminded me why I love the game of basketball. When it is played correctly it is such a beautiful game.

  11. I wonder, is the team playing better because Kobe is out or because Bynum is out?

    Seems to me that with Bynum out, Pau gets more touches and Lamar gets the opportunity to move more freely (and also gets more touches). Makes you wonder whether having Bynum come off the bench is worth a shot for a few games at least.

  12. I still wonder how LA will play once #24 comes back after the ASG. I for one thought he had learned to play within the offense, not dominate the ball, after last years chip. The corner had been turned and KB was ready to defer to his talented teamates more than in years past to save his body.

    The season started and we saw the leopard did not change, the iso oriented offense could be blamed on injuries and bringing Artest along in a new offense. The excuses got tiresome and nobody had a definitive answer as to why we couldnt seem to get it together when it mattered with such a talented team.

    KB is a warrior and has the tenacity of a cornered alley cat. But I think he has got caught up in the Bron/Kobe( who’s the best in the league) talk a bit and has forgotten about all the other talented players he has on his own team.

    Do I expect him to change his perception of the team, no not really considering he practices with these guys everyday and should know what they are capable of. Im just hoping he gets all this out of his system during the season. Come playoff time realize the only way for him to stay ahead of Bron,as the best, is to win that D### ring. LA4EVER

  13. Woah who is this spammer from a rival blog linking his stuff here?

    Get your NBC butt out of here man, this is ESPN territory!

  14. The STD,

    Do you, by any chance, know who you are talking to? ;)

  15. Relax everyone. That NBC guy is probably just some random hack who thinks he knows basketball.

    (Kidding Kurt, kidding. :) )

  16. 13) – I have criticized Kobe’s “volume” shooting quite a bit on this blog. To be fair to Kobe I do think the loss of Pau at and the integration of Artest screwed up the offensive balance a bit. Also, hitting that string of game winners probably put Kobe over the top.

    Granted, I am not in the guy’s head. But I don’t think he came back this season with the intention of reverted back the 2007. That would seem to be impossible after winning a title in such a balanced way.

    Does Kobe want to remind everyone in the league that he is still the ace? Of course he does. However, we know he wants another title more than anything. I fully believe Kobe will make the proper adjustments.

  17. Does anyone have ESPN insider? Curious to what trades they think should happen.

  18. What these last 3 games have shown is that Pau,Lamar and the rest of the guys owe Kobe an apology for playing so soft the first part of the year.

  19. Mimsy, care to elaborate a little more about your experience??

    When you first told us you were going to the game I developed a need for you to tell us the experience in your unique way.

    By the way I enjoyed quite much David McMenamin piece about the different types of leadership provided by Kobe and Pau, and I’m with him, we should play Gasol’s way until there’s the need for Kobe time.

  20. okay, here’s the thing. every once in a while we see how well this group of guys can play this game; and yes, this tends to “spoil” us. I don’t expect to see them play at that level all season long, or for 72 games or anything like that. sometimes the other team just plays better than you do. sometimes you get unlucky and the *other* guys hit a last-second game winner.

    but what frustrates me, and I gather a few others, is that having seen how well they *can* play, we have to suffer through long stretches where they don’t play anything close to their best ‘ball. for example, losing to the Clips and the close loss to Toronto (and losing again to Cleveland) during that 5-5 stretch in January. and even while they were maintaining their “best record” they weren’t always winning with style points (ref. Kobe’s miracle shots).

    so when they get into these prolonged valleys it’s only natural to look for a scapegoat(s). some are even doing it now to try to explain how much better the team has looked for three (3!) games.

    [have you ever looked at the derivation of the term scapegoat? In the Mosaic ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi), that one of two goats that was chosen by lot to be sent alive into the wilderness, the sins of the people having been symbolically laid upon it, while the other was appointed to be sacrificed. but I digress.]

    if you guys (Kurt, Darius) at the top don’t like it when you see all of these frustrated reactions, instead of beating us about the head and shoulders and telling us to stop behaving like spoiled children, perhaps you could instead treat us like the misguided adults that we more probably are and help us understand why it is we’re seeing the things that we seem to see.

    entirely for instance, why does LO seemingly disappear for 40 out of 50 games, when everyone agrees that he has all-world talent? is there any reasonable way to fix that, short of trading away Kobe? or what is really going on in Sasha’s head?

    or, since questions like that are probably impossible to answer, perhaps you should just pick a scape-rat and banish him from this forum.

  21. @18: Farmar/Morrison/Powell for HInrich was one of them. Nothing really stood out

  22. Something just hit me…what is up with Phil? Sometimes i absolutely do not understand what he is thinking. One problem i have is his substitution pattern. Shannon Brown is not playing well, Farmar and Sasha are playing well. Why not give the latter 2 more time on the court? Also, what was up with playing the starters during the first half of the season, way too much? Why play Kobe 40 minutes per game? Why play his starters incredible minutes while not establishing the bench?

    But my biggest issue is why doesn’t he tell these players their role? The recent examples are Shannon Brown and DJ Mbenga. Shannon shot 15 times against the JAzz. That is a ridiculous number of shots. Especially these off the dribble, fade away, contested, horrible shots. And DJ Mbenga shoots the ball, while everyone watching the game is making fun of him, every time he touches the ball. Why doesn’t Phil let DJ know that for him to be effective in 15 minutes per game, he needs to hustle, play defense, block shots, rebound, etc. NOT SHOOT JUMP SHOTS! Why not tell Shannon that he is shooting bad shots? That he needs to cut/attack?

    I trust Phil and i think he is the best coach in the NBA. But sometimes i just don’t understand what he is thinking.

  23. Well done Darius.

    Whoever talked Kobe into sitting out these games and the ASG (Phil, Vitti, Tex, Natalia…) has put this team back on a track that will be beneficial for all involved.

    LO has been able to reacquaint himself with drives to the rim.

    Pau has moved towards a depth of focus and forcefulness that he had in last year’s playoff run and that was lacking coming off the hammy injuries.

    And everyone is humming that little ditty we call “Running the Triangle”.

    One of Kobe’s best seasons was ’03 (I believe) when he broke his hand in the preseason and was forced to watch his team excel without him. He won’t be able to revert to the bad offensive habits he was redeveloping before he sat, or it will painfully obvious to all involved…

  24. From insider, Phil on putting LO in the starting lineup and having Bynum come off the bench:

    “My coaches are kind of pushing me in that direction, but I’m not ready yet to do that,” Lakers head coach Phil Jackson told The Orange County Register. “We won last year with Andrew when he came back at the end of the season, going out there and playing the first quarter and starting the games. Even though he wasn’t 100 percent when came back off his injury last year, he still gave us a lot; he gives us a big front. So I have to measure that and see what’s going to happen with this team in the next couple weeks.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Odom said. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter, because I’m about moving forward, getting better individually and as a team. Whatever they decide to do.”

  25. Lets just trade Kobe, because everyone else is so much better without him. The guy has carried the team for years and guys on this site get all excited because LO as had a few good games ( he should be getting 18/12 every night) and complaining about the team is enjoying the ride it shows we care.

  26. Please let’s stop the Kobe bashing! He has been the MVP of the league this season and if not for four buzzer beaters this team would be battling for the second best record not best record.

    And gee whiz no one might think that perhaps the lakers opponents these last three games have LETDOWN not having to face Bryant and
    bynum???? Duhhhhh. Let’s not get carried away with stupid Kobe second guessing. He is on his way to a fifth laker title and if/when gets 6, he’s the greatest laker ever and perhaps the GOAT.

  27. Excellent post and great comments so far…

    I do appreciate what I have in the Lakers, the most talented team in the world by FAR. Cleveland may have the most talented player, but we have the most talented team. Maybe too much talent. What I mean by that is that the Lakers are so good, that they can give 70% of effort and win almost 90% of their games. When we give 90%+ effort, we are almost unbeatable. When we give 100% effort, beautiful things happen on the court.

    When I say too much talent, I mean that the team rarely needs to give 100% effort to win, so many (LO, Bynum, and Fish, and etc.) just defer to more motivated players such as Kobe, Pau, and Artest. Our bench players have their own agendas half the time, and they tend to defer to Kobe and watch him go to work. The Lakers are so not focused during the regular season because they know that they can turn it on when the playoff starts. Is this true? We won’t know until they fail, when it’s too late.

    That parent analogy is so perfect, because as fans we want to see margin for errors, but the players don’t think like that because even though it is their job. Their job is to play this wonderful game. No matter how you look at it, it’s not REAL LIFE. When the Lakers lose, no one really dies or loses money (sports betting is illegal in most parts of the country). It’s not like their livelihood is at stake if they lose. The worst case scenario is that they get booed or don’t get as big a contract next year. So, of course, they won’t give their best all the time. Every job has different degree of focus required, right? Brain surgeon or trial lawyer might have bigger stakes in their job than a server at fast food restaurant. tThe expected performance levels are different for each job. As I said earlier, just because they make tons of money, doesn’t mean that they have to perform at their best every night. That what we hope and wish, but the reality is that there are tons of “lazy” millionaire thieves in all of pro sports, not just the Lakers. As fans, we get upset watching that. However, our team is trying and doing well. They know when to get “serious” and play well. They have the talent and the drive. I believe they will repeat as long as they are all healthy.

    I can’t help but get upset, too, when they lose, especially to the lesser foe at home. However, I understand that the other teams have talent and drive to beat our team, so as long as they have CHANCE to win each night, I’m happy. The real test comes in the playoffs, so I try not to get too excited during the regular season. Perhaps, I’m taking the laid back attitude that many of our players have. I enjoy reading all the comments whether its postive or negative. Keep bringing it. It’s all for fun, right? As long as we have fun following our team while reacting to their success and failures and exchanging great ideas and insights, I’m appreciating what I have–the best franchise in all of sports and the best sports blog site in all of internet.

  28. Gatinho I think you may be thinking of ’00. Kobe broke his hand in the preseason. Came back in full facillitator mode. Lakers with best record and first title of 3-peat.

    I’m a huge Kobe fan, but, that being said I wouldn’t mind his shot totals dropping to between 15-20 a night. I can’t believe I’m saying this since I’ve long been clamoring for him to operate more from the post…but I’d also like to see him operate a little less out of the post. I think our spacing is better if he’s operating more from the perimeter as a slasher/3 pt threat.

  29. re: #25:

    I remember there being a reader comment that identified that quote as Phil using the media to goad Bynum into stepping it up when he gets back.

    (btw, what’s the timetable for him getting back? Is he gonna be ready to go vs. Golden State next week?)

  30. the other stephen February 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    19. tswum,

    in the child beaters’ defense, those are topics which have frequently been discussed here and subjected to as intelligent an analysis as i have seen or heard anywhere else. there are some brilliant old posts exploring players’ and teams’ psyches. but as you’ve revealed, there are bounds beyond which the most exacting of our scrutiny can never go, and which we’d probably be wise to respect. those who suit up for this franchise carry us the rest of the way on their backs. i feel like that’s where we step back and remember it’s a game.

  31. well said Darius! (again, I might add). I do take issue with Farmar and Sasha. Your observations are persuasive, and maybe they have a turned a corner, but they are still quite selfish, which is a major drag on a team like this. I don’t think Farmar’s reached his potential, but until he makes a consistent commitment to running the offensive and playing defense, he’ll always be a third option as he is now. Sasha is not as good as Farmar, but the same applies. These guys have been with this team long enough to figure it out, and the fact that they still struggle with this strongly suggests they won’t be around in October. But you’re right Darius – as you frequently and eloquently are – I should enjoy the moment. So I will.

  32. 24 – haha I bet it was Natalia. The only person who can talk Fierce Kobe down.

  33. I blame Bynum for losses when he is abused by Dwight, Nene, Shaq etc. when he doesn’t seem to be playing defense

  34. Insider thinks that we’ll trade Faramar, Morriosn, and Powell for Hinrich which I personally don’t see happening, I really beleive in Faramar but I don’t really know what the Lakers think about him

  35. Does TNT looked washed out to anyone else? It looks like the Q is underwater.

  36. Does anyone have a link to the Orlando-Cavs game? Thanks in advance ^_^

  37. Darius is right on! On previous posts there were some who were quick to point out ol’ crazy pills’ production in the Jazz game; when only the game before he had a good all around game. Most Laker fans really are spoiled, I guess.

  38. Great read as always Darius. I like the analogy of parenthood in #2 but on the same hand don’t we love our kids unconditionally and regardless how they perform? Be patient Lake fans.

    The negativity expressed here often times amazes me. There are about 29 teams that would gladly trade their “problems” for ours.

    On a side note FB&G is awesome. Besides the obvious writers the vast majority of those that post here truly know their stuff and more impressively, despite disagreements, express themselves rather eloquently. You all have contributed to making this a quality site…can’t reall say that about other sites out there.
    JLV

  39. Darius,
    Great post. Kobe is the 2nd best player in the NBA and Bynum is probably the 2nd best Center in the league… both are not perfect but I’m glad they are on our team. Teams rally when star players are out for short periods of time and the Lakers have done so. You wouldn’t wanted Kobe with two minutes left? You wouldn’t want Bynum against the big contending teams in the league (Cavs, Celtics, Orlando)?

  40. We’re not taking on any salary next year unless we trade away Sasha in the process. No way Buss adds 16M onto next years already bloated payroll.

  41. i think its fair to say that vince’s 48 point game was an abberation

  42. JJ Redick is exactly the player we wish Sasha would be

  43. jameer nelson is a mess.

  44. ORL/CLE playing a tight game into the 4th quarter. Hopefully ORL can come away with a W in a close game on the road.

  45. Beautiful post, Darius. Just plain beautiful. I love the whole Kobe-Pau dialectic.

  46. magic always have the same problem, guards forget about howard and start jacking up bad jumpers

  47. i just looked at PER stats and farmar is just as good as nelson, puts things in perspective

  48. Dejuan Blair is a classic example of what I was talking about in the main post. Yes he has his limitations and when the Lakers beat the Spurs on Monday those limitations were on display (limited athleticism, undersized, etc), but the things he does well, he really does do well. He could help every team in the league and the fact that he lasted ’til the 2nd round is kind of a joke.

  49. @42 Aaron – RE: Kobe, that’s no matter of fact. Lebron isn’t the King of the NBA yet; KB24 is the one with four crowns and the more complete game. But I digress…

    What I wanted to say was how much I liked what Jim Hill said on the LTV postagme show; when the leader goes out & the group still thrives, it is a true demonstration of successful leadership.

  50. In your best Lawrence Tanter: “Big Picture Bryant sits down. Into the game, Collective Will.”

  51. Man, Jameer Nelson was terrible down the stretch today. Just not the player he was before he got hurt last season.

    On a more positive note, fantastic post. Just a really good read.

  52. re Farmar for Heinrich:

    Farmar PER = 13.87
    Heinrich PER = 10.47

    Farmar > Heinrich

    Farmar 2010 salary = $1.95 million
    Heinrich 2010 salary = $9.50 million

    I agree with Hollinger, who believes Heinrich is one of the three or four most overrated players in the league. The guy has never been able to hit the broad side of a barn with his lame jump shot, and his lateral quickness on defense will only go downhill from here, as he just turned 29. Jordan Farmar is a substantially better player who has yet to reach his peak. Heinrich reached his peak in 2006 and 2007, and has been declining ever since. DO NOT WANT.

  53. 55, I’m amused that you spelled Hinrich’s name “Heinrich” repeatedly. I’m gonna go watch Inglorious Basterds again.

  54. 15. STD, Hey just because I’m not here keeping everyone in line doesn’t mean I don’t read everything. That said, yes, I’m a link whore, throwing it out there everywhere.

    Having to play sans Bynum/Kobe has brought a focus back to this team I don’t think we’ve seen since the playoffs last year. Even in those playoffs, the Lakers liked to have their backs against the wall. They had that, and they rose to the challenge. That is a very good sign, they need to build on it, but that fire and play is still there.

    And Darius, your point about Blair — that is something David Thorpe tells guys. Unless you are Kobe/LeBron/Wade/Duncan caliber, you are a role player in this league, no matter what you were in college. If you want to stick in the league, you need to do one thing very well — shoot, rebound, defend on the perimeter, hit the three, whatever it is. You need one skill that GMs can say “hey, we need a guy who can rebound off the bench” and you get calls. If you are just okay to good (by NBA standards) at everything, you are forgotten.

    By the way, Darius and the guys are just killing it. The quality of the posts here has gone up since whatshisface left.

  55. 57 – Kurt,

    I commend Darius for the terrific job he has done since whatshisface left, but I also commend whatshisface for choosing the right person for the job.

  56. With the deadline approaching, the Lakers’ next move would most likely be July 1st. Mitch might as well take a vacation.

    Not too many of you have gone as far as think about the Lakers 2010 off-season. The current concerns of chemistry between Bynum and Gasol, Kobe’s injuries, Ron Artest’s infusion into the team are too much to think about. There’s also Denver and Cleveland who whopped our a$$es in 2 meetings.

    But for those of you who are far-sighted and part-clairvoyant, this thread will be helpful in helping us assess our situation come June.

    So, assuming the Lakers stand absolutely pat, perhaps just make minor signings between Feb. 19 to March 1st, the Laker-committed lineup and payroll are set.

    Payroll: $83,938,202
    Roster: 7 [Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Artest, Vujacic, Walton]
    ETO: 1 [Brown]
    RFA: 2 [Farmar, Morrison]
    UFA: 3 [Fisher, Powell, Mbenga]

    Upon looking at the roster, its clear that the Lakers have its future figured out (core players under contract) except for PG. As a matter of fact, all 3 of the team’s PGs are set to be free agents, 3 of each kind.

    Derek Fisher will soon be 36 and he is still looking to re-sign. For how much will be up to management. My best guess is he re-ups for the vet minimum of 1M.

    Jordan Farmar is a restricted free agent. My best guess is that Mitch Kupchak will offer him a 3-yr 10M deal to remain a Laker, will allow him to explore employment from other teams, then depending on the offer he gets, the Lakers act on it. Since the market is quite tight but the # of teams that want a PG and have cap space are limited, its safe to say JFarm is not getting an offer above the new MLE. If he indeed gets the full MLE from some other team, it will very hard for the Lakers to match.

    Shannon Brown is someone whom I see as a free agent by choice this coming 2010. His player option of 2.2M is the last thing he plans to have with this season being his breakout season. He is EXPECTED to opt out, but the Lakers are hoping to still make him part of the team. My best guess has him being offered the same contract as Jordan Farmar with his agent and him asking for the full MLE. Deciding on taking him or not taking him will be hard, but I see the Lakers ultimately getting him back but for only 3 seasons under the full MLE money.

    Before I go on to try to figure out our 11th, 12th and 13th men, please note that the draft comes before July 1st Free Agency. While our 3 PGs deserve to be talked about almost regardless of what happens in FA, I decided to put them ahead. Now onto the draft.

    Because the Lakers are paying 21M in taxes this season, pending the results of the 2009 Playoffs in which we hope to repeat, it is highly unlikely that the Lakers try to add a 1st round pick into its payroll. And since Memphis actually owns this pick of ours (as the last installment on the Pau Gasol deal) we actually don’t own a 1st. Subsequently, we have 2 2nd rounders. Mem 2nd stands to be just outside the playoffs but nowhere near top 10, this pick is best estimated at 42. The other 2nd rounder we own, is our own, deemed to be no better than 59th overall.

    With the Lakers already preparing its austerity kick, with Kobe Bryant yet to sign his own extension (max deal, identical years as what Gasol got) the Lakers can safely disregard the draft, stash last year’s pick Chinemelu Elonu for another year and try to deal Vujacic before the season ends.

    Yet, because the 2010 draft holds very good promise, I will speculate that the Lakers will be picking the best player available (preferably a guard) for the 42nd pick, and the best player available are you kidding me at 59th overall. Its not totally outlandish as well to think that the Lakers MIGHT actually just sell these 2 picks and call the NY draft a day.

    So since the draft is quite irrelevant for the Lakers (well, depending on what happens in the playoffs, really) the Lakers team can very easily decide to re-load the team using Bynum as bait. But that’s for a different setting and for a different time. Like they say, “we cross that bridge when we get there.”

    Back to the free agents we have, its most likely that Mitch’s 1st move is to renounce the rights of Adam Morrison. He will most likely talk to Farmar 1st, Brown 2nd and entertain Fish after these 2 have been settled, agreed with or talked to.

    The big question is, with roster set at 7, with Fisher, Brown, Mbenga and Powell expected back bringing the total to 11, will the Lakers use its MLE this year? In case you wonder, the money we use to pay Shannon Brown under my best guess assumption is via exercising his bird rights.

    My best guess at this crossroad is… IT DEPENDS. If Farmar takes the 3-yr 10M deal I am surmising, then there is a good chance the Lakers stand pat. Of course, the success (or failure) of the 09 season factors in alot. But assuming we got to the Finals (whether we won or lost) I am quite certain we will have the very same faces (less Ammo, welcome Gaffney) into our 13-man team.

    So what if Farmar signs with another team, say the Heat, and the Lakers decide not to match? Again, please note that Shannon Brown is NOT a PG.

    This is actually the part when it gets interesting.

    The season so far…

    Roster: 9 [Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Artest, Vujacic, Walton, Fisher, Brown]
    UFA: 2 [Powell, Mbenga]
    RFA: none
    Picks: 0

    We are at 11 players if we count in Powell and Mbenga, but technically speaking just 9. Who might just take our MLE?

  57. just from the box score, it looks like the Spurs are playing top notch team ball tonight against Denver. consider the way the shots are spread around.
    http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=300211007

  58. WIN ARTICLE.

    I have been saying this for a long time to my buddies when we watch games. But, I don’t think it is because we are spoiled as lakers fans, but more bc of how our societal values. Like, once we do something, we want immediate results, and if we don’t see them…we give up. Or complain about it. I’m sure this happens to every team.

    And it doesn’t help that ESPN tries to instigate..hope kobe doesnt get affected by the media

    L&P
    Laurance

  59. 51. On Dejuan Blair going 2nd round, I believe the sense was he was a mid-1st rounder except that his knee was a huge question mark.

  60. I think the strongest starting line up for the Lakers should be
    C – Bynum
    PF – Gasol
    SF – Artest
    SG – Kobe
    Point Forward – Odom

    Just like the Championship team
    Bulls starting line up, and maybe stronger than MJ’s Bulls. Just my opinion

  61. Great Article Darius!!! I was thinking close to the same thing. I appreciate the team more now than I did a week ago. We need Farmar, we need Wow, we need Sasha, heck we even need Luke. Even Mbenga steps up. Sorry, but I can’t claim love for Powell or Ammo.

    @55 The Dude Abides

    I want Kurt Hinrich but I am nolonger willing to give up Farmar. He brings that third facet of a point guard to the team. He is our speed guy. He is the only other true point guard our teams has and it makes no sense to get rid of him before we get to the Finals. He breaks most points down so easily it’s scary.

    Hinrich can’t do it. I’ve watched 5 or 6 of Chicago’s last games and decided the guy, though a perfect fit for the triangle, is not worth the $17 million he is owed. I would gladly give them AMMO for Hinrich but not Farmar and for that matter not Sasha either.

    We do need another ball handler. Brown is a two not a one. His ball handling skills are terrible. He can’t pace himself, he runs up and down the court too fast, and his passes are always a tad off. Having him play with Kobe, Pau, Lamar, and Farmar is perfect for a speed team.

    We will wait until the waiver period in between February 19th and March 1st. Hopefully someone like Dorell Wright gets waived and he can fill a defensive role. We can get another true point also from the waiver wire or the D-League. But this team, as it stands, deserves to defend its championship.

  62. Warren reiterates my point on the high quality writing that we have on this site. Awesome assessment and another great read. It’s clear we don’t just have your casual, everyday, run of the mill Laker fans here.

    I think now that “What’s his face” left a lot of folks no longer are deferring to the White Mamba and we are now beneficiaries to more quality posts. Ha ha ha

    Obviously I jest because truth be told this has always been a first rate site. I’m a huge fan of Kurt, Darius, Warren, et al. Sometimes some of us have to be contempt on being on the Taco Squad.
    JLV

  63. For all you who have forgotten, Lamar cannot consistently cut to the rim when Andrew is camped there (see LeBrawn with Shaq in the key). It’s called spacing. In addition, we did not have as many PUJITs without Kobe playing. They used the triangle much more effectively. They played to our strengths, so more drive opportunities existed. We will only play the same if everyone buys back into the triangle when the big guns return.

  64. I think another factor in the success of Odom, Gasol, everybody else in Kobe and Drew’s absence is that the team is essentially an unknown factor for opposition coaches.
    They prepare for games against the Lakers with the idea of stopping Kobe. It was impossible for them to predict how the team functions without him.
    In terms of scouting, when Kobe is on the court, players such as Lamar and Pau have smaller roles, and are therefore easier to contain on defence.
    Without Kobe, it is a totally different story. Lamar’s creativity and versatility is put on full display and there is nary another forward in the NBA who can stop him. Same with Pau.

  65. Great post Darius. I love it!!

  66. Pau Lamar and others,apologize to Kobe because you are not giving everything when he is on the floor.If you want him traded,be a man and say so.

  67. great post darius, but my my warren wee lim!

    thank you for that short-term picture of the lakers’ future. here’s one who shouts out about how that makes me wish most of the team remains intact.

    after hollinger, i must admit am not as high on hinrich. this to say that there are people better out there to provide us more oomph and athleticism on the wing. boy am i spoiled or what? regardless, i trust our higher ups. as for the pg situation on defense, i think the past games showed that nothing beats good ol teamwork.

    kobe out of asg ruins my day but it might as well give me a week of happiness come june so it’s a good one kobe. maybe he’s decided to be the facilitator again. i hope though, a facilitator that still takes a good number of shots best suited. nothing makes the lakers deadlier with kobe being decoy and during cold stretches, destroying the other team with jumper after jumper.

    am also beginning to like the idea of bynum off the bench. if that hurts his ego, then i don’t know what won’t. exaggeration of course. but come on, there has to be something more than just asking for more touches and being the oak tree. him being the primary option off the bench sounds as good as being 3rd option up front. we can plug him in against the perkins and howards of the league.

    is kobe going to participate in shanwow’s dunkathon? i hope he does…nothing beats stealing the show.

    GO LAKERS!

  68. Imagine Kobe telling Lamar:

    “Lamar listen, this is between the two of us, but man, Im hurting. I cannot do to much out there. We all need to keep up appearance, but this year its on you. I need you to step up and be the man. Ill give it all Ive got, but you gotta carry us this time!”

  69. hey Darius, how about a post on this –
    Lakers to explore starting Odom, not Bynum

    remember Luke approaching PJ, saying put Ariza in the starting unit and he would provide stability off the bench?
    classy move.
    great results!

    I’m wondering if Drew should consider the same, approach PJ, say LO is killing it in the starting unit, and he could anchor the bench, provide low post scoring that is lacking…
    I’m just sayin’

  70. The improvement that has caught my eye the most since Kobe and Bynum have been out is the quality of shots the Lakers are getting late in the shot clock. They keep moving the ball and keep the defense working for the entire 24 seconds at times. Even without a score, if you get a good shot every time you are going to make more than you miss – hopefully. Keeping the defense scrambling throughout the game will help eliminate the opposition making runs on the other end of the floor. Early in the season when the bench was blowing huge leads it was a horrible combination of lack of ball movement on offense following to poor shots and capped off by even worse transition defense. These past three games have been complete opposite of what we saw from Farmars, Odoms and Shannon’s at the beginning of the season. I really hope this strong play carries into the second half of the season and gives the Laker reserves some of the potency they had last season.

  71. Wut is this im hearin abt the celtics? this cant be true right…

  72. JLV, far too kind. I don’t deserve that kind of praise.

    Yusuf, I was about to mention the same thing.

    “In a dramatic move that would resuscitate their fading championship hopes, the Boston Celtics are discussing a deal with the Washington Wizards for forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday. The proposed deal would send the expiring contracts of Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the Wizards, a move that would signal the start of Washington’s rebuilding process.”

    Sounds like desperation moves for me.

  73. Totally random thought – I was watching Shannon Brown highlights and I think his highlight of the year so far was that block on Atlanta’s West. That was really his coming out party, the first time we saw this guy as something a little special. Plus, he chased down an open fast break and blocked it with his elbow he got so high. GOOD LUCK SHAN-WOW!

  74. re the last 3 games, I think it’s a bit like kids shaping up when parents aren’t around. You know how your kids can act like uncontrollable animals when you’re home, and then mommy gets sick and goes to the hospital and lo and behold, they brush their teeth, clean their room, and do their homework without being told. The older ones even cook. You come home and say “why can’t you do this all the time?” But you realize it’s your fault too.

    Boston sounds like they’re in full panic mode. Can anyone even slow down Cle? They have all those home games and they play the freaking east. Should we reserve our energy and shoot for HCA in the west only?

  75. Yeah JLV, the “Taco Squad”, huh? I am proud to join the likes the of Lakers on-the-court equivalent, here at FB&G. I do have have the insiteful comments of most, but I feel confortable here, saying what I want about my beloved team, give credit to Kurt and now Darius for that feeling. Speaking about Gasol and LO, I remember people saying that Gasol was not a real Center and even LO was not a real PF in this league, but those are the positions they have been playing regulary now days, while the team is winning, just interesting. Now I have two more posts to catch up to today here at this site. Darius, make sure you are having fun here, and not overworking yourself with this new hobby of yours, no complaints from here though about all of the great reading you are providing, I just do not want you to burn out, we still have a lot of season left – lol.

  76. 56. Don, I meant to do that.
    :D ;)

  77. Excellent, superb entry Darius. You can really write. Thanks for reminding us how special our two main big men are. And in general, regarding all your writing since assuming Kurt’s command, I just love how you’ve totally picked up where he left off. You have a similar kind of way with words, writing a cut above the Sports Illustrated’s and the ESPN’s. I love ESPN, but you are your own standard, my man, you have managed to make your words flow and undulate, and your observations are keen, shrewd, and always timely and/or prescient. I know I’m being repetitive, but is truly a pleasure to read your stuff, and not just because I’m Laker fan, but as a fellow writer.
    I’m sure you too will follow in Kurt’s footsteps and make it to the next level of professional sportswriting, and it is a testament to your skill in prose that I’m sure that will happen sooner than later. Only downside would be to we the readers, of course, but I for one would cheer you on no matter, good sir. Kol ha’kavod, good sir – “with all due respect” in Hebrew (or as I like to say, “Big up big up, big respect, big respect!” like Ali G always says).

    -Seth, Herzliya, Israel, via Encino, LA.

    Long live the Purple and Gold and the Forum Blue & Gold! Best pro team and best pro sports blog in the Universe!

  78. * hmmm, not using the edit feature to check my work @79, ‘do have have’ s/b ‘do not have’, anyway who is reading this old, old post now days. Darius, feel free to make the correction, whatshisface used to – lol, you guys are funny indeed.

  79. apart from the rest that kobe needs for the rest of the season, this passage allows phil to sit him more during games, again keeping him fresher, since the Kobettes should have more self-belief.
    sadly, it does become clearer that lo is a far better fit with pau and i would endorse the idea of drew coming off the bench.
    since lo also likes to bring the ball up, i sorta agree that we don’t need a point guard as much. i’m still unconvinced that jf is a future starting pg, but it seems to me that this is something to address in the summer.
    interesting, to me at least, highlight on espn nba gameday (is that what the wrapup’s called?) highlighting the laker’s successful defensive plan against the Jazz.
    Shows when they ALL play to the plan and
    listen to the coaches, it works!
    went thru espn.com’s true hoops daily dish to celtic bloggers’ collective moan session. so good to read!

  80. can i add that my highlight was the three man break ignited by a block and ended with the tip to pau and the tip in therefrom.
    team plays like that always get to me
    (not that kb highlights don’t, of course!)

  81. Oh, you guys are making me blush.

    In all honesty, it’s the community that Kurt fostered and maintained that make this place great. The ideas and discussions that spring up in the comments are inspiration for posts and in depth thoughts about the Lakers and this game. Without all of you, this place wouldn’t be the same.

  82. Okay, LJAY, since you asked… :) Here we go, scattered notes and fond memories from my first ever NBA game:

    I love the mass-transit system (TRAX) that took us literally to the foot of the steps leading up to the front entrance. No stress, no parking hassle, no fighting game-night traffic. Beautiful! All cities need to do this. Especially mine.

    (While we were waiting in line to get in, the two Jazz fans behind us were discussing the playoffs, and one of them was saying that since he had been living in Cleveland for a long time of his childhood, he’d feel very torn and conflicted and not knowing who to root for if the Jazz faced the Cavs in the playoffs. I am proud to say that I was able to resist the urge to tell him not to worry, he won’t have that problem any time soon; it’s not the poor guy’s fault he’s a bit delusional. )

    Once in the stadium the positive impressions continued. Lots of happy fans from both sides, friendly trash talking and lots of places to buy food. Since we had been driving for about six hours and were starving, we split up in a two-front attack. My better half foraged for food while I went for the nearest beer stand where the positive impressions came to a screeching halt They charged me a price that might have been justified if they had handed me a keg of beer and not a couple of plastic cups that frankly were not nearly large enough. At least it was fairly good beer, but still, the positive impressions of the stadium came to a screeching halt.

    Grumbling and eager to find our seats so I could eat my pizza and drink the expensive beer, I regrouped with my better half in section 127, row 2. For being nosebleed section seats, they were nice. We have a full view of the entire floor, but still close enough that we could see and recognize the faces of the Lakers that were down there warming up. We said hi to the Jazz fans on either side of us, joked about how we both hoped the other team would lose, and said hi to the six Laker fans in the row in front of us as well.

    Then we ate pizza and watched the pre-game shoot around. I was surprised to hear that the Jazz fans were booing the Lakers even during the warm-up, and I was impressed by their dedication.

    I don’t think Farmar missed a single shot. I don’t think Lamar was serious for the entire time I was watching. I don’t think there was a less active player on the floor the entire night than Adam Morrison during the warm-up. Also, though that might be the perspective and angle we had to the floor, I don’t Ron Artest looks quite as hulking big in person. DJ Mbenga on the other hand does.

    Then the Jazz players entered the floor for their warm-up.

    Wow. That place gets loud.

    Part of it might be the acoustics, the arena is obviously built to keep the noise in and force it back downwards, but the crowd was just as much of a factor. No wonder the Jazz are tough to beat at home… even sitting above the rail, the noise is deafening. Down on the floor it must be down-right suffocating.

    When the visiting team’s starting line-up was announced the Jazz fans booed loudly, loudest of all for Derek Fisher. We put our beers in the cup holders so we could stand up and cheer at the top of our lungs with the other Laker fans in the building, but we could barely make ourselves heard over the booing. Of course we didn’t let that stop us from trying. Then we sat back down to finish our pizza while the home team was announced.

    If the noise during the warm-up was loud, the roar during the slide-show on the big screen was ear-splitting, and unbelievably it became even louder when the starters were announced. Interestingly, while the Jazz players were getting all the spotlight, lining up on their side of the floor and the dancers were doing their thing on the middle of the court, I looked over to the Laker bench, and noticed that Ron Artest was out on the floor, all by himself, and moving back and forth in the painted area of the floor. I have no idea what he was doing, but it looked like a warm-up drill of some kind.

    And then the game started. Everything is a bit of a blur past this point… the intensity of the crowd, the game, the whole event, makes it hard to pick out specific pieces. I remember shouting to Ron Artest to stop trying to shoot and just pass the ball. I remember jumping up and down and sharing high fives with all Laker fans around us when Shannon dunked and Farmar hit perimeter shots. I remember being happy to see the Lakers move the ball well and swiftly, remember that I was impressed by how stubbornly they refused to give in on defense.

    I remember thinking that Lamar played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play, and the same for Pau Gasol. I remember jumping to my feet and cheering when Ron finally made that layout, after elbowing his way into the post and shoving the defenders out of the way. I remember I was happy that Fisher got to drive into the post and make a very athletic layup in Utah of all places.

    Most of all, I remember the noise. The crowed never went quiet. Never. Even when the Jazz were down by nearly 20 points, there were scattered chants of “Defense! Defense!” especially from the upper sections. When Kirilenko hit a shot to cut the Laker lead from 16 to 14 the crowd roared as if he’d made a buzzer-beating game winner. They kept doing that through the entire game, especially during the Jazz run in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

    I also remember that despite their reputation as hating all things Lakers, all the Jazz fans I met and talked to were friendly and pleasant, and seemed impressed that we were willing to drive for six hours just to watch our team play. In fact, the least classy and by far most unpleasant behavior I saw was exclusively from people claiming to be Laker fans.

    That irritated me. I joined the surrounding Jazz fans in expressing my disdain and contempt for such unsportsmanlike behavior; of course also adding that true Laker fans would not behave that way. True Laker fans are also basketball fans, and you can’t be a fan of the game and not appreciate the talent and tenacity of the other good teams in the league, and the Jazz is one of them. No, they’re not NBA Finals material this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re not very good. They never gave up, they never stopped fighting, and for that alone they deserve respect.

    It was a very good night.