Archives For February 2010

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In what was a wildly entertaining and hard fought game, the Lakers came up short.  On this night, another that Kobe did not suit up, the Lakers were cursed by poor guard play and shoddy execution down the stretch and just didn’t have enough of a finishing kick to pull out a game that was there for the taking.   Ultimately, this was a game that was both fulfilling because of the effort displayed by the our guys while also being extremely frustrating because of a closing 7 minute stretch where the Lakers executed poorly and missed a golden opportunity to sweep their bitter rivals from the east.

The game started out with Boston taking an early and healthy lead due to unbelievably accurate shooting and some sloppy Lakers offense.  Boston just couldn’t miss.  Fadeaway jumpers by KG with Bynum all over him?  Ray Allen making some vintage leaning to the left jumpers after curling off screens?  Rondo taking a twenty footer when the defender goes under the screen?  No problem for the Celtics in the first 12 minutes.  Just a tremendous offensive output for a team that has struggled all season to generate high level offense.  But, the C’s would stay true to form and go on a drought that would let the Lakers back in to the game.  They started to turn the ball over, the Lakers started to go inside on both the dribble and on post ups, and the tide started to turn.  And once again, without our superstar guard, it was the Lakers front line that led the way.

If there is credit to be doled out on offense for the Lakers, it needs to go to our fowards and centers.  Ron, Andrew, Lamar, and Pau combined to shoot a very efficient 25-50 from the field and 12-15 from the foul line for a total of 64 of the Lakers 86 points while adding 38 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 blocks.  Just a beautiful night for our four bigs.  All night, they worked hard and fought for every inch against a physical Celtics team.  Bynum went to work on the block.  Gasol was good in the post and even better from the mid range.  Lamar played his trademarked open court game.  Artest was just a beast.  It seemed like the Lakers front court was just taking turns making plays and it kept the team in the game.  Bynum would get an offensive rebound and an “and one” finish.  Then Odom would create in the open court and drive to the hoop and either score (that dribble right, left hand dunk was power and grace personified) or create an easy offensive rebound for a crashing teammate.  Two plays later, Pau would show his patented patience on the block, turn and face, then sink a 16 footer over an outstretched arm.  On seemed like the next trip down, Artest would get a steal and a dunk.  But, it wouldn’t be enough.

Because all the while, the Lakers’ guards couldn’t buy a shot.  The worst of the bunch was Derek Fisher, but Farmar and Shannon shared in Fish’s misery from the field.  Those three combined to shoot 5 for 25 and effectively halted momentum on several different occasions where the Lakers seemed primed to either cut into the Celtic’s arm-lengthed lead or bring the game to within a single possession.  Shannon would pound the ball and then miss a long jumper.  Fish would push the ball upcourt, see a sliver of an opening, and then force a drive that end up missing or getting blocked.  Farmar seemed content at not playing his typical aggressive game and floated around the perimeter before taking a three pointer.  And on it went all night.  The saving grace for the guards was Sasha, who provided his typical blend of hustle and scrappy effort while adding a level of decision and shot making that was on par with his activity on the court.  Early in the 4th quarter, when the Lakers were looking for a spark, it was Sasha grabbing some key rebounds and making a couple of shots that helped the Lakers take a 4 point lead.  But, that too, would not be enough.

Down the stretch, the Lakers made a bunch of little mistakes that added up to too many missed opportunities.  Early in the 4th quarter and after the Lakers made their run to finally get a lead, Bynum came back into the game and the team tried to hold it together but just couldn’t.  The ball stalled in the post, then guards decided that it’d be better to force their own shots rather than going to the players that had proven most effective the entire evening.  By the time that Pau returned to the game and the offense found it’s fulcrum, the damage was done and the Lakers could no longer put together a solid possession.  A post entry and kick out turned into a forced jumper rather than a re-post.  A pass to Pau at the high post was followed by a mistimed cut that ruined spacing and allowed help to flow to a posting Artest, leading to a blocked shot.  A series of passes around the perimeter leads to a post up, only to see the ball get knocked out of bounds with then only precious seconds to get another long jumper as the shot clock wound down.  Another post up leads to a questionable pass to a three-quarter-effort backdoor cutter that ends up a steal for the opposition.

But, despite this haphazard play down the stretch, the Lakers still had a chance to pull out the victory.  Down by one with 30 seconds left, the Lakers would get the one stop they would need to earn the last possession.  When Artest hounded Pierce and contested a jumper, Lamar secured the rebound and raced the other way as the clock ticked down.  However, in mid stride and closing in on the basket from the right wing, a whistle blew.  Time out, Lakers.  In what would be a fitting moment of more poor execution down the stretch, Phil had signaled Pau to call a timeout so he could diagram a final play rather than letting the play develop as he has so many times in the past.  I won’t criticize the coaches in this instance, but it was obvious that the players did not know that a timeout was desired had the team gotten a stop and secured the rebound.   After the play was diagrammed in the huddle, the Lakers ended up inbounding the ball to Fisher with 2.2 seconds left where he promptly missed another jumper that sealed our fate.  On a night where three of our four guards were completely ineffective, this seemed fitting.  Ballgame.

In the end, I am proud of the effort our guys displayed while being disappointed a loss that just as easily could have been a win.  Without Kobe this team has fought hard and played well beyond what most people thought possible.  But it’s games like this – close battles where that singular and spectacular player can make a difference with the game on the line – that we missed #24.  I am frustrated by the loss but fulfilled by the fight that our guys showed.   It’s never a good feeling when the Lakers lose, but our guys can hold their heads high – they battled ’til the end.  They just didn’t have enough to pull it through on this night.

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Records: Lakers 42-13 (1st in the West), Celtics 33-18 (4th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.2 (9th in the NBA), Celtics 107.0 (13th in the NBA) 
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.0 (2nd in the NBA), Celtics 101.6 (1st in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

The Lakers Coming in:  Another night without Kobe tonight, and against our heated rivals no less.  But the Lakers keep churning out the wins, so Kobe can heal up knowing that the team is still racking up the victories and keeping pace in an ever improving league and conference.  There have been a lot of trades happening all over the NBA and every team has been jamming up opposing GM’s phone lines in an effort to improve their respective team, but as the trade deadline has passed it looks like the Lakers have stood pat.  That is no surprise when you consider all the factors – our league high payroll, the reality that any trade would mean jettisoning Sasha (and his bad contract), the complexity of our sets and what that means to intergrating new players, and the likelihood that teams may not want to help out the defending champs by contributing good players to our roster.  So, we go to battle with the same team that we started the season with and I’m fine with that.  If there is any team that is constructed to win the title this year, it’s the Lakers as they have only made one change to a roster that actually did win the Championship last season.  The Lakers, until dethroned, are the kings of the hill and other teams must improve to try and catch them.  Come June, we’ll see if all the effort and extra millions spent at the trade deadline will add up for one of the other contenders and lead to a championship.  Sure, I (as with I would assume most other fans) would have liked to see a trade that improved us in some way (PG, backup SF).  But that didn’t happen.  I’m not dissappointed by this and now that the trade deadline is over and passed, we can all get back to the games at hand.

The Celtics Coming in:  One team that did make a deal was the Celtics.  Reportedly, the C’s have acquired Nate Robinson (and an additional player to be named) in an effort to get  a more explosive back court player that can play some defense and boost the scoring of their 2nd unit.  My take is that Nate is a true wild card that can end up truly helping the Celtics with his offense and ball pressure D, but he’s also a guy that can get moody and has found himself in the doghouse plenty of times for his lack of team play with more than one coach.  How will he play for the Celtics?  As with any of the trades that have gone down, that remains to be seen.  But this seems like a bit of a desperate move and a minor shake up of a roster that needed some life after sputtering with an up and down season (for their recent standards) so far.  What I do know is that this is the type of deal that will put chemistry at the forefront as I wonder if Nate is an Unbutu kind of player that is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to his game to really blend in with a contender. 

Outside of the trade, when evaluating Boston you see the team that many experts thought would come along sooner or later when Danny Ainge decided to go for broke by adding great, but aging players to a roster desperate to compete again.  The Celtics did get their ring, but now they find themselves with veteran players on the wrong side of their peak that are suffering from ineffective play and linger injuries.  This decline is highlighted by the droppoff in shooting by Ray Allen, the balkiness of KG’s knee, and Rasheed Wallace’s body looking like he’s had one too many trips back to the mash potatotes and gravy at Home Town Buffet.  And while Pierce has stayed effective through injuries, this Celtics team is becoming more and more dependent on the effectiveness of its young players.  Luckily for them, those players have been playing well.  Perkins has turned into a solid offensive player and a real beast on defense.  He plays the position game with his post defense better than anyone (save maybe Chuck Hayes) and with above average rebounding and hustle.  Then there is Rondo.  Rajon has really turned into one of the elite young PG’s and plays a style that is seemingly a mix between a young Jason Kidd and the current version of Tony Parker.  Rondo is a menace on defense, has a great feel for running an offense, can finish in the paint with the best of them, but lacks a jumper that makes you respect him completely on offense.  There’s a reason that Rondo was getting crunch time minutes in the ASG last weekend.  He is for real.

Celtics Blogs:  There are plethora of Celtics blogs that are worth reading (if you like being behind enemy lines).  There’s the OG blog of covering the C’s - Celtic’s BlogCeltic’s Hub always has good insight on the greenies.  Red’s Army…I could go on and on.  Check them out, they’re all good spots to get the skinny on what smart C’s fans are thinking (yes, there are smart C’s fans).

Keys to game:  This a game where the Lakers advantage inside is not as pronounced as it is against most teams.  I would still take our front line over theirs, but they have a good, veteran group that knows how to play the game.  That said, this should not stop the Lakers from going inside and running our sets through our bigs.  In the last meeting between these two teams, Bynum had one of his best all around games of the season as he brought effort and intensity on defense and took it to Perkins on offense.  Perk is a beast, but Bynum has the ability to be a monster as well and with a height and length advantage, I’d like to see ‘Drew go to work on the block and get some buckets and (maybe even more important) get Perkins in foul trouble.  Gasol should also be able to attack KG on the inside.  As mentioned earlier (and as we all saw in the ASG), KG is not anywhere near to 100% healthy and he has lost a half step in his lateral quickness.  I’d love to see Pau in post iso’s on the weakside, look for cutters in his typical way, and then drive hard at KG and make him move his feet.  I’d also love to see more of those quick spin moves from Pau after feeling for the angle of the defender on his back.

On the perimeter, ball movement will be key, but the ball must move decisively and with crispness.  The C’s employ one of the best defensive minds in the entire league in Tom Thibodeau and his schemes are very well designed with an emphasis put on denying ball reversals and also showing and recovering with help on the wings.  This will mean that the Lakers wings must play disciplined and not fall into the trap of taking the long jumpers that the C’s want to make them take.  The guards (that means you Farmar and WOW) need to continuously feed the post and cut hard and then screen hard.  The ball will come back to you and the defense will loosen up.  They just have to trust in that and execute accordingly.

On defense, the most interesting decision will be how to play Rondo.  Ever since the ’08 Finals, Phil has played Rondo almost exclusively with Kobe and allowed him to play off Rondo to disrupt passing lanes and roam as a helper.  This has forced Rondo to play outside of the paint more than he’d like and turned him more into the reluctant jumpshooter that is much easier to handle.  But with Kobe out tonight, Phil will have an interesting decision to make.  Does he put WOW on Rondo?  When that match up occured in the 2nd quarter of our last meeting with the C’s, Rondo abused WOW and got anywhere he wanted on the court, sparking a run fueld by back cuts by Tony Allen and ‘and one’ finishes by Rondo himself.  Does he put Fisher on him?  I think we all know that Fish can not stay with Rondo in the open court and that Rondo’s quickness and ability to feint and change direction with hesitation dribbles is too much for our veteran PG.  In the end, I think we see WOW on him with the strict instructions to play way off and invite him to shoot the jumper on every play.  However this turns out will be one of the major keys to this game.

Besides containing Rondo, the Lakers must also be aware of the delayed/secondary fast break and find shooters.  Ray Allen, Pierce, and ‘Sheed all love to run to the three point line on the delayed break and Rondo is excellent at penetrating, getting the D on its heels, and then passing out for a wide open jumper.  Being aware of this should be fresh in the the Lakers minds as they just got a healthy dose of this against the Warriors with Morrow, Curry, and Watson providing the shooting.  Also, be aware of the screens that the C’s set.  Boston is one of the teams that sets the most (some would say illegal) screens in the league.  Knowing where the screen is coming from both on and off the ball is a key and the Lakers must be vocal on defense to sniff out these picks (and if the Lakers feel like they’re being screened illegally, take a hard foul or ‘sell’ the contact to the refs – the only way to stop it is to make the refs notice).  Lastly, the Lakers must be aggressive in going after the ball in both man to man sets and in the passing lanes.  The Celtics are one of the most turnover prone teams in the league and can shoot themselves in the foot with sloppy play.  Be aware of this carelessness and the Lakers are likely to get lots of points off turnovers and that can be the difference in the game.

Where you can watch:  7:30pm start here on the West on TNT.  You know what that means – more like 7:45.  Also on ESPN Radio 710am.

Before I get into any of the trade links, here are a few links on Kobe’s status as of yesterday after the Lakers’ practice. Kobe was interviewed after practice, and when asked if it were a definite no in playing in tomorrow’s game against the Celtics, he responded saying, “right now it’s a no, but if I wake up tomorrow and feel drastically different, I’ll play – but I doubt it.”

Land O’ Lakers also have post-practice interviews from Phil Jackson, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol on various topics like Kobe, the trade deadline, tonight’s game against the Celtics and the season beyond. Also, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog has some analysis on Kobe’s post game interviews and what his recovery is looking like:

I had earlier maintained that the situations involving his finger and ankle are different. Though having a fractured finger is far from enjoyable, playing through that injury is technically doable. As far as Bryant’s insistence to play through his ankle before and his decision to take a long-term approach now seems pretty straight forward and doesn’t really need much parsing (though I’ve kind of already done that). The strained tendons and muscles in his left leg has added difficult to the recovery process, with Bryant noting “tendons are a little different; they have their own agendas on what they want to heal.” But his outlook on recovering from injuries appears the same.

Yesterday, there were a few moves by teams either trying to improve, or teams trying to clear cap space for this year’s free agency. The most notable of those trades was Washington sending Antwan Jamison to Cleveland in a three way deal that also included the Clippers.

Cleveland gets: Antwan Jamison, Sebastian Telfair
Washington gets: Cavs 2010 1st round draft pick, Draft Rights to Emir Preldzic, Al Thorton
Los Angeles gets: Drew Gooden

Reactions:
The Cleveland Plain Dealer gives all of the details of the trade
Clipper Blog explains what it means for the Clips as far as cap space is concerned
Cavs: The Blog explain how Jamison is going to be able to help the Cavs offensively (yes, help them) with his ability to spread the floor:

Jamison can shoot. He has to be guarded beyond the three-point line, and is comfortable catching and shooting. Even if he’s not on fire, he’ll provide Shaq with space in the post and Andy space to cut. He’s also crafty off the ball, and should be able to find cuts and angles to receive an interior pass from Shaq or Andy when Antawn dives to the rim. When he gets it near the hoop, he has great patience and can finish from a variety of angles. Jamison’s been in the league for a long time. He knows how to score from everywhere on the court. He’ll be able to make it work on offense in ways that pairings of Shaq/Hickson, Shaq/Andy, or Andy/Hickson weren’t able to.

The Kings and Rockets also made a deal yesterday involving Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Sacramento gets: Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and cash considerations
Houston gets: Kevin Martin, Sergio Rodriguez, Kenny Thomas, Hilton Armstrong

Reactions:
ESPN gives all the details of the trade
- Cowbell Kingdom gives all the details and much, much more:

“And I don’t blame the Kings for doing so, either. Sacramento had to figure out if Evans and Martin could coexist together. The only way to do that was to force the issue and get them to form some chemistry on the court. What happened was the Kings already existing struggles to score inside were amplified because the ball stayed on the perimeter. The Martin-Evans duo needed an inside presence in the post to balance out the attack and open up the perimeter. Unfortunately, they never had that weapon at their disposal and the rest of the team seem to be forgotten too often.
“With Martin’s role becoming less and less defined in the offense over the recent stretch of games, there was some confusion as to what the next step would be. The immediate reaction was to think he’d be traded (especially after the weird sitting out of all but 15 seconds of the fourth quarter on Tuesday night). However, since the Kings were demanding a low post presence and none of the rumored deals seemed to be meeting that criteria, a Kevin Martin deal seemed to be improbable.
“But here we are. Kevin Martin is traded and the Kings received a low post threat that they desperately have been seeking.”

One last notable trade was the Chicago Bulls dumping John Salmons contract on the Milwaukee Bucks.

Chicago gets: Hakim Warrick and Joel Alexander
Milwaukee gets: John Salmons

Reactions:
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives the details of the trade
By The Horns explains that this trade was purely for cap clearing reasons:

“In the meantime, the Bulls are a little worse.

Don’t get me wrong. Salmons hasn’t had a great season by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s still the team’s second-best three-point shooter and its third-leading scorer. Make that was. I guess it’s time for Devin Brown and Jannero Pargo to step up.
Said Derrick Rose: “Man, that’s crazy thinking about John leaving. He just came here [in a trade with the Kings on Feb. 18, 2009]. But, it’s the NBA. If he does get traded we’ll definitely miss him, but [the season] must continue. … It hurts your team a little bit. Like when you have a game right after [a trade]. But that’s just how the NBA goes.”

There was also a trade between Minnesota and the Knicks where Brian Cardinal and Darko Milicic were swapped and it still remains to be seen if Tracy McGrady will end up in New York or if Amare Stoudemire will end up in Miami. Teams have until Noon PST to make their decisions.

Today, I leave you with a post from Eddie Maisonet, the newest member of SLAMonline.com, who introduced himself by writing a bold piece proclaiming Pau Gasol, not Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ MVP. Here’s a few lines from the post:

“Sure, Kobe’s more dynamic. He’s going to shoot the game-winners. He’s the poster child for the League. We all know this. If we were talking about the Most Outstanding Player for the Lakers and the NBA, of course Bryant wins this award.
“However, the title is “Most Valuable” and from a value perspective it’s extremely tough to say isn’t more valuable. Plus, who’s to say that Gasol doesn’t make players better? Lamar Odom was almost traded roughly 38 times before Pau got there, however Gasol and Odom (and Bynum to a degree) remind some of the Uncles in our family to a Parish/McHale/Walton ’86 Celtics feel of a frontcourt. Other teams in the NBA have strategically reshaped their teams to beat LA, by adding frontcourt depth in particular.”

Check out the article. Thoughts?

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Some updates on today’s trades

As many speculated yesterday, Tracy McGrady wasn’t done moving. The Kings were able to come to terms with the Knicks to complete a three-way deal with the Rockets.

New York gets: Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez
Houston gets: Kevin Martin, Jared Jeffries, Hilton Armstrong, Jordan Hill, NYK’s 2011 pick, the right to switch picks with NYK in 2012
Sacramento gets:

Reactions:

– NBA Fanhouse tells how Sacramento was able to helm make this a great trade for Houston:

Houston’s role in all of this is interesting, and it’ll be worth following the next few days of explanations to see exactly how this came together. The Rockets had been working with the Knicks on the non-Martin, non-Landry portions of the deal for weeks. It seems as though Houston got tired of waiting and made the deal for Martin about 12 hours early, perhaps putting pressure on New York to give up those picks. It worked. It looks like Sacramento really helped the Rockets here.

– Ball Don’t Lie explains McGrady’s worth for the teams who dealt him:

The deal? In the latest of many permutations, it appears as if Tracy McGrady is heading to New York. An expiring contract, and nothing more, despite the long term outlook they’ve been trying to sell you through the media. The Knicks will no doubt play Tracy this season, but come July, he’s gone. Come July, thanks to the work of Donnie Walsh, most of these Knicks are gone, and they’ll have a real shot at signing two big free agent contracts.

The Knicks were pretty busy today. Not only did they acquire McGrady, they were also involved in a five player deal that sent Nate Robinson to the Celtics in exchange for Eddie House.

Boston gets: Nate Robinson, one other Knicks player not mentioned yet
New York gets: Eddie House, Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens

Reactions

ESPN gives the details of the trade.

Celtics Hub on why bringing in Robinson was the only move the Cs made.

A lot of Celtics fans are going to be disappointed that this is the only deal the C’s have made at the deadline, considering the number of other deals that went down around the league. The truth is, Danny Ainge hands were tied, given the team’s salary concerns for next year (63 million committed to just 6 players) making it tough for the team to absorb any bad contract that would be required in return for receiving any “impact” player the C’s were looking for, as seen in the excerpt above.

The C’s had plenty of expiring contracts to deal besides Ray Allen, but all of those guys were either a) lacking talent that would make them appealing to other teams (Giddens, Walker, Scalabrine, Williams) b) important parts of the team’s rotation (Daniels, TA, House)

There were also a few other minor deals made before the deadline:

The Chicago Bulls traded Ty Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats for Acie Law IV and Flip Murray.

Ronnie Brewer was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for a protected 2011 pick.

The Philadelphia 76ers traded Primoz Brezec and Royal Ivey to the Milwaukee Bucks for Jodie Meeks, Francisco Elson and a second round draft pick.

-Phillip

Missing Luke Walton

Darius Soriano —  February 17, 2010

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Over the years, Luke Walton’s tenure with the Lakers has been a bit of a touchy subject.  Many fans take one of two stances on Luke: he’s either an overpaid player that isn’t very good or he’s a valued contributor whose feel for the game and the Lakers system makes him a player that truly does help this team.  This is a never ending debate amongst Lakers fans and I’m not sure if it will ever be resolved completely.  The truth is probably in between these two views as Luke is overpaid for his contributions to the team, but those contributions do have value.   So now, with the recent news that Luke is out indefinitely, I think it’s worthwhile to examine what his prolonged absence will mean to the Lakers.

Let’s take a look at this from two persectives, player rotations/substitutions and X’s and O’s:

Rotations/Substitutions:  Whatever you think about Luke’s value to this team, the fact is that he is the Lakers primary back up at SF.  After Artest, Luke is the player that is next in line at that position and, for that reason alone, his absence is meaninful.  This season, Luke has been a bit player primarily due to the fact that Phil has found a comfort in the Farmar/Shannon back court with Kobe playing SF a lot with this group.  This means that Luke’s minutes have been reduced because Phil is (seemingly) much more comfortable with a better scoring option and better defender at SF when he goes with this smallish back court.  But, even though that has been the case, Luke has still been called upon to help this team even with that small back court in place.  And, even though Luke has seen his minutes reduced, he’s still a viable option at SF in a variety of lineups through varying circumstances.

Take last night’s game for example and you find a scenario where Luke is missed.  Obviously, Ron Artest is the starter at SF.  But Ron will not always play well (in his last two games, Ron has shot 5/13 and 1/7 ) and in these instances, having a viable option not named Kobe (who has been banged up plenty this season and his minutes should be monitored) needs to be available to play SF for us –  that person should be Luke.  This is even more evident because of the player that sits behind Luke in the SF rotation – Adam Morrison.  Right now, Ammo is not a quality player at all.  He’s a shooter that is not making shots and has never been a player that plays even passable defense.  If Ammo plays meaningful minutes in any game, it is a problem for the Lakers.  Sure there are other solutions outside of Ammo and Kobe.  The Lakers could go small with either Shannon or Sasha playing spot minutes at SF or the Lakers could go big and play Lamar there.  However, those options involve playing a guy out of position and asking him to do things outside of what his normal role is, which is not typically how Phil operates (Phil is the king of normalizing roles and often sticks with players and/or lineups seemingly out of the want for familiarity).

In the end, understand that we need a player (or several players) to take up some minutes at SF.  As the season wears down we want to not only start to peak as a team, but we want the team to be fresh going into another deep playoff run.  So, do we want Kobe playing 40+ minutes with 5-10 of those coming at SF where he’s guarding and being defended by bigger, more physical players?  And if it’s not Kobe, do we want Ron playing 40+ minutes on feet suffering from plantar fasciitis in cheap shoes?  Do we want Ammo playing 10+ minutes a night?  I’m pretty sure the answer to all those questions is no.

X’s and O’s:  We all know that Luke has limitations on offense.  He’s not the best outside shooter and his limited athleticism makes him an average finisher in the paint on fast breaks, penetrations, and post ups.  But one thing that Luke does do well is pass.  Combine that passing acumen with his knowledge of the Triangle offense and you’ve got a more than serviceable player for the Lakers.  Earlier this season, when Luke was sitting out for the second time with his back injury (we’re now up to injured list trip #3) many fans (and even the Lakers coaches) were clamoring for a return of Walton to help a sluggish Lakers offense find its groove again.  We all saw how the Lakers ball movement was limited and how players cuts and screens were executed with little zeal due to this lack of passing and teamwork.  Everyone knew that, even in limited minutes, Luke could help with that.  And when Luke did return his assist totals may have been low, but he did intitiate better ball movement when he was on the court and got players cutting harder and moving more off the ball just because of his penchant for passing.

Beyond Luke’s passing, he’s also a post up threat for the Lakers.  Now, missing another post up player may not seem like a big deal when your team has Pau, Bynum, Kobe, Artest, and Odom.  But, the difference between Luke and those other players (save Gasol) is that when he’s posting up, Luke is not only looking to score, but he’s looking to pass just as often.  Plus, because Luke is not a strong offensive player, the opposing team often puts a small defender on him and that further allows Luke to go to work on the block and make the game easier for his teammates.  Overall, Luke in the post helps this team as he’s both a capable scorer on the block and a more than willing passer.  He creates easy buckets for this team and helps in the smoothness and efficiency of our sets.  From an execution standpoint, Luke (even in limited minutes) helps this team.  He can bring the ball up and put our other wings into positions where they can play off the ball and take advantage of more of their strengths.  Last season during the playoffs, we often saw Luke in the game whenever Shannon was playing PG so that WOW could play off the ball more and not have to initiate offense.  This season, Luke’s ability to initiate offense has clearly helped players like Bynum and Gasol just because Luke is one of the players that is constantly focussed on running our sets and making sure our bigs get post touches.  Considering our bigs are our most efficient players, I’d say this is pretty important.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying Luke Walton is some savior that can’t be replaced and whose presence would be the difference between a bunch of wins and losses.  As I mentioned above, Luke is a bit player for the Lakers who is only averaging about 8 minutes a game this season.  But, in the larger scheme of things, someone else is now going to have to play those minutes and this roster really doesn’t have an answer to that question that doesn’t lead to more questions with broader considerations and implications.   Hopefully, Walton can recover from his injured back and return as a contributor to this team down the stretch of the season.  But, if he can’t there will be some obstacles to overcome when dealing with that absence.  Whether they’re in tangible or intangible ways, Walton is a player that helps this team.   So, my hope is that you get well soon Luke because you will be missed.

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Again, for the fourth straight win, the Lakers get it done without Kobe Bryant. Last night’s game saw the return of Andrew Bynum, who played very well alongside both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. All five of the Lakers starters finished in double digits, and were led, surprisingly, by Shannon Brown’s career highs in points (27) and rebounds (10).

The Lakers got off to a great start in the first quarter. They were hitting their shots, grabbing offensive rebounds, getting stops and running the offense inside-out against an under sized Warriors team. Both Bynum and Brown finished the quarter in double digits as the Lakers took a 36-24 lead into the second quarter.

Then, as Darius suggested in his preview, the Lakers got a little sloppy, which would eventually lead to 19 turnovers and 26 points off of turnovers for the Warriors. The Lakers won 104-94, but the sloppy play kept this one a lot closer than it should have been.

On the Land O’ Lakers Blog, Brian Kamenetzky wrote about the Lakers sloppy play in the second quarter:

“Kudos to the home team for exceeding the pace set only a quarter earlier, when L.A. gave up the rock three times in barely two minutes between 9:49 and 7:48, part of a six turnover frame leading to 11 points for the Warriors and whittling a 12-point advantage after one down to three at the break. Without a seven-point burst over the final 1:32, it would have been worse, as the Lakers were stuck on 11 points for most of the quarter.

“I think we can all agree it wasn’t the vaunted Warriors defense keeping them down.

“By the end of the third, the Lakers had given the ball up 14 times, exceeding their 13.1 average with 12 minutes still to play. They’d finish with 19, as sloppy and inattentive on this night as they were razor sharp in the three leading to the break. The shot selection was often awful, as the Lakers failed to consistently take advantage of a Warriors team with almost no meaningful size down low. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest combined to shoot 13 of 39.”

Even though it was only the Warriors, no one should be worried about the sloppy play going into Thursday’s game against the Celtics as the Lakers have been known to lower their level of play to the competition, with or without Kobe – and the Celtics have the third highest turnover rate in the league.

Lamar Odom finished with 18 rebounds off of the bench, bringing his season average to 10.0 rpg, ranking him 12th in rebounding average in the NBA. You have to love the way LO has been playing in the four games of Kobe’s absence. He’s had rebound totals of 22, 10, 11 and 18 in the four games, and just a mere five in their last loss against Denver.

Warriors’ rookie, Stephon Curry, had one of the worst nights of his young career. He finished with an 11-10-8 line, but shot only five for 21 and one for 10 from behind the arch. This, following his triple-double against the Clippers in their final game before the All-Star break. Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune talks about his off night:

Curry had the lion’s share of the spotlight Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Under the bright lights of the famed Staples Center, the Warriors’ rookie guard put together one of the most memorable performances of his young career.

Unfortunately for Golden State, it wasn’t the good kind of memorable, as the Warriors lost 104-94. In a game where the Warriors needed his offense, Curry couldn’t flip a quarter off the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay.
Curry took 21 shots and missed 16. He made just 1 of 10 3-pointers, bricking five of his nine misses in the fourth quarter, spoiling the Warriors’ chance at an upset bid.

“A couple of those go down and it’s a different ballgame,” said Curry, who had 36 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds his last game. “I don’t plan on shooting that badly. Ever again.”

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register had a nice piece on Andrew Bynum and how injuries have, and will continue to limit his growth as a basketball player, citing his reluctance to play with injuries:

“It’s becoming ever clearer that the thing that could truly stunt Bynum’s growth en route to basketball greatness is an inability to overcome what is wrong with his body. That’s why Shannon Brown’s bounce-back from his dunk-contest failures was the stir of the moment, but what happened Tuesday night that ultimately means much more for the Lakers was Bynum playing hurt.
Bynum’s reluctance to play was clear in his hesitant voice coming off the practice court Monday. Asked about the state of his bruised right hip, Bynum quickly went for the negative “didn’t feel that great” answer long before he shared that there was actually “a lot less” pain than heading into the weekend.”

As far as Kobe goes, it appears that we won’t know if Kobe will be playing in Thursday’s game against the Celtics until Kobe knows himself. Phil Jackson said that the decision was, “purely up to him” on whether or not he’d play on Thursday night. If no decision is made by Darius’ afternoon post, we’ll definitely have an update by tomorrow morning.

Last, but not least, it has been reported that Denver Nuggets’ coach George Karl has a neck and throat cancer that is “treatable and curable.” Karl survived prostate cancer back in 2005; our thoughts go out to Karl and his family in hopes that he makes another full recovery.

-Phillip