No Switch To Flip, No Panic Button To Press

Darius Soriano —  March 30, 2010

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We’re 74 games into the season and this Lakers team has not changed at all.  I mentioned it in the recap to the Hornets game and several other times before: the Lakers are what they are - consistently inconsistent.  That said, while this is frustrating, I’ve learned to live with it.  That’s because following the Lakers, for me, is like anything else in my life that gives me both tremendous joy and moments of anguish.  And it leads me to respond the way that I always do.  Which is enjoying the good moments more than I let the bad ones bother me.  Why do I bring this up?  Because at this point in the season I think all Lakers fans need to understand that while there isn’t a switch that the Lakers can flip that turns them into a juggernaut (the best example of this would be the 2001 Lakers team), there is also no need to break the glass enclosing that panic button to start pressing away.

This Lakers team is one that has the talent and the will to win.  I know this because I’ve watched the games.  I’ve seen them respond in tough situations by clamping down on defense and getting the baskets that they need on offense.  I’ve seen them rattle off wins when both Kobe and Bynum have missed games.  I’ve seen them (well Kobe, really) make improbable shots that won games or forced overtime.  I see no need to panic over this team.  Not a team that has the players and character that this one does.  But, I’ve also seen this team loaf for entire games.  I’ve seen them go away from what is obviously working to do something else that is not nearly as successful.  I’ve seen questionable offensive possessions transition to suspect defensive possessions and then watched that cycle repeat for chunks of minutes at a time.  Watching these types of performances for nearly and entire season also lets me know that there is no switch to flip for this team.  There is no level that is much higher than the best that they’ve played this season.

And therein lies the rub with this team.  The complete game that we’ve longed for all season has been pretty much absent.  There have been few wire to wire wins.  Even fewer games where strong opponents have been put away early with the Lakers’ collective foot on their throat.  But, this team has won 54 games and that’s not on accident.  You don’t stumble into 54 wins.  That many W’s just don’t appear in the ledger by accident.  Those are earned.  It’s just that they haven’t been earned in a way that us fans have wanted.  We take issue with that and I don’t think we should be blamed for feeling that way.  We want to see wins and we want them our way.  Dominating performances that make teams fold.  Consistent effort that leads to the Lakers out performing their opponents at everything.  We haven’t seen too much of that this season.

But, I also don’t think it matters much.  One year ago today, the Lakers were 58-15 and had just lost to the Hawks on the road.  If we really remember what that team was like last season, these current Lakers are not too different.  They played down to their competition.  They lost games fans thought they shouldn’t.  Their commitment to executing on offense was spotty.   I do understand that this is a difference, though.  That difference was the will to beat the best teams.  A hunger fueled by losing in the Finals the year before.  That is gone this season.  But I almost expected it to be (as sad as that sounds).  When you win, the drive to win again can be difficult to muster every night.  Meanwhile the opposition’s desire is never stronger than when the champion enters the arena.  I don’t think many Lakers knew what that would be like and it’s been a trial by fire all season.  So be it.  Sink or swim.  The real question is, now that the regular season is closing, will the Lakers find that drive?

And that brings us to the playoffs.  On the day after that afforementioned loss to the Hawks last season, Kurt wrote this in a post:

I am not that worried about going into the playoffs with a ton of momentum. I said this in the comments but I think it bears repeating — the playoffs are another season all together. They have their own ebb and flow, and teams will improve during them. Remember last year (2008) — the Celitics looked like crap in the first round. And much of the second. Nobody thought they looked like a champion, getting taken seven games twice. How did that end? The playoffs are another animal, all together.  That is not meant to say I think the Lakers need dramatic improvement, but rather a reminder that what is going on mid-April and in June are just simply different. And not easily predictable.

Now, this season is different in many ways to last years’ as the concerns that face this team – it’s outside shooting and their struggles at PG to name two – are real and exploitable.  That said, I believe in Kobe Bryant.  I believe in Phil Jackson.  I trust them to lead and coach and help get this team to play their best in the playoffs.  I trust that just as the other team will be creating game plans to try and expose our weaknesses our coaches will be formulating counters to those plans and creating plans of their own to attack the other team.  All while preparing the players to execute.  The second season is near and while I do have worries, I also feel excitement.  The Lakers are the defending world champs and as the doubters voices get louder I expect the Lakers resolve to strengthen.  It will not be an easy road to navigate, but it was never going to be.  I still think our guys will be ready for the challenge.  So forget about this team flipping a switch and don’t reach for that panic button yet.  There is too much season to play and this team, with all it’s flaws, still has a very good chance to finish what was started in October.

Darius Soriano

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55 responses to No Switch To Flip, No Panic Button To Press

  1. I am just going to enjoy the rest of this regular and post basketball season with my Lakers as much as possible with FB&G insights and analysis. The following is the percenatages of 98% of our worries in life, the other 2% is something to worry about:

    40% on things that never happen
    35% on things that can’t be changed
    15% on things that turn out better than expected
    8% on useless, petty worries

    Go Lakers…

  2. ReignOnParades March 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    The way you mention the offensive execution, PG issue and outside shooting almost in passing is certainly enjoying the good more than dwelling on the bad.

    I fancy myself kind of the same but in reverse, the meaning of my handle “ReignOnParades” is that while I may rain on everyone’s parade as far as the optimism train goes I do celebrate that the championship is still ours, that it could very well remain ours after the season, and that we could be in the middle of a dynasty for all we know.

  3. That was a good post. However, i do disagree with its basic tenant. This Lakers team is NOT losing because of a failure of effort or focus. They have an incredible record against sub-500 teams. It is strong teams which they lose to and this is in complete opposition to last year when it was the bad teams they beat, the good teams they beat, but the average teams they lost to. That was more an issue of effort. And it showed in the playoffs having to take it to 7 games vs Houston, and on the verge of losing to the Nuggets (game 3 in Denver was the turnaround, must win game, and Kobe came through in the clutch).

    This year they simply do not have the same level of talent as last year. Don’t get me wrong, Artest is better than Ariza. It is the other players which have fallen off a bit. Derek Fisher is even worse than last year, if possible. PAo is not as good either. Kobe has fallen off a bit as well, most likely due to age and injuries. On the positive side, Bynum is much better than last year and hopefully we will be able to use him.

    With Kobe i’ve always said that he is best in facilitator mode. But a facilitator mode that still has the confidence to score at will. This year he has lost this. Kobe should never, ever take 10-12 shots per game. He should be at around 20 each and every game. Also, he has seemed more out of control. Last year he had his sweet spots and moves. This year he seems to have lost a bit of confidence. He is no longer under control and clinical like he has been.

    I think that it is time for aggressive Kobe to return and bring out the facilitator after his confidence fully returns. Also, he needs to gain the composure back. Don’t look for fouls, just play. Post ups, mid range, etc.

  4. With all the stuff that has gone wrong this season – massive injuries, decline of the Fish, lack of development from the young backups… then 1st in the West, with possibly a full and fairly healthy roster at the start of the playoffs is a good position to be in!

    Not long ago the Hornets were real threats… CP3s injury and general decline unravelled that team. The Mavs have maxed out on expensive vets, and have gone fairly injury free through the season, gotten lucky with a steal of a trade and a massive development from a young talent… yet, they are still looking up at the Lakers!

    The higher a monkey can climb
    The more he shows his tail

    Im genuinly exited about his team and these playoffs. Its gonna be a dogfight, and as the primal animal I am, I like to watch that kind of stuff… to see my heros facing destruction, see them pushed, grabbed and suffocated… and hopefully, finally, see them prevail :P

  5. 3, I agree with most of what you wrote, but I think you and darius both omit a critical point from your analyses: namely, that our competition has gotten much better. Look at Dallas’ roster compared to last year. Look at the Nuggets (also with an extra year of experience and hunger/desire for revenge). Then, if we do manage to come out of the west, look at Cleveland’s roster compared to last year. Look at Orlando with VC and a healthy Jameer Nelson. Look at Atl, longshot as they are.

    Among the real contenders for a title, Bos and SAS have fallen off considerably with LAL falling off a bit less, but we are a worse team than last year while everyone else has gotten better (and I agree again with #3, that this is not a RA v TA issue, but more about our bench, shooting from distance, and PG ‘play’).

    Unlike Darius, the Lakers create the opposite reaction in me: I tend to suffer the losses much more than I enjoy the victories, with the major exception of Playoff Win #16 where I’m like a basketcase of happiness who can’t stop smiling and hugging people. I have no sense of how far this team will go, but I see plenty of cause for concern and, when I compare us to the teams that I really see as the elite of the elite (CLE, ORL, DEN, not sold on DAL yet) it’s hard for me to see an argument for the Lakers winning other than: Phil, size, and Kobe’s clutchness. I know that those are three huge advantages, but comparing them to, say, the versatility of Denver’s bench or the number of ways Cleveland can beat you, I’m not feeling optimistic…

  6. #5. lil’ pau,
    I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have concerns or that I wasn’t worried. I think our flaws are real and that they can be exploited. I also understand that our foes are tougher. Especially Cleveland and Dallas. However, if you wanted me to give my honest assessment of all the real contenders left and rank them I would say that Cleveland, LA, and Orlando are the cream of the crop (and probably in that order in terms of who is the favorite to win) with Dallas next and Denver fifth. Missing Martin really hurts them and they’ve also lost a little bit of that edge since Karl has been going through his treatments and missing games. Back to the point for me though, as long as we’re in the discussion and have a real shot, I’m going to be excited. I will definitely admit that after the recent stretch of games and then in looking back at this season I have some real questions about this team. But then I go back and look at our record and some of that negative feeling goes away. Then I look at Phil and Kobe and more of it goes away. And then I think about the prospect of going through the playoffs, with all those games at Staples and I move into a different mindset and start to see more positives than negatives. That doesn’t erase the negatives – as I said they’re quite real and teams will attack them and challenge us to respond – but every team has holes. All I hope for is relative health and a chance. And it looks like we’ll get that at some point before or by the time the playoffs start. Then the games start and we’ll all get to watch.

    Also, enjoy the wins more. It’s rare that any team is very good for an extended period of time. The Lakers, though having had long stretches of excellent play, should not be taken for granted as a winner. Savor what we have as fans of this team because it won’t be this way forever. That’s a sad way to end this comment, but it’s the truth.

  7. “and the will to win”

    I disagree with that. I think a lot of the problem is that the sense of satisfaction from last season has taken the edge off – not completely, but at the NBA level, it doesn’t take much of a change to make a big difference relative to the opposition.

  8. #7. So you don’t think the Lakers have a will to win?

  9. Chownoir (was J) March 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    The post is pretty close to what I feel. That said, the one thing that hovers over my fandom is Cle. That is the one team I ‘m not sure the Lakers can beat. Unless the guards have above average shooting for the series, I fear Cle. As they are presently configured with all those live active bodies in the frontline to complement Shaq/Z and the trio of 40%+ 3pt shooters, that is a very tough team to beat even if Lakers are focused and playing well.

    All the other contenders, I have enough faith that the will of Phil and Kobe can push the Lakers past. Cle, I’m not so sure.

    What rankles me more is the idea that Shaq will get his 5th. I’m okay with Bron getting his, but the thought of Shaq starting all his nonesense again when he gets the ring just burns me.

    I have the same feeling of dread against Cle that I had for Boston in 08. Someone take them out. Because Lakers can take any other team. Like Kaveh, I don’t like the performances against top teams this year. I think that’s a good indicator.

    All that said, if a Laker guard wakes up and shoots lights out for 4 playoff series, then it’s a whole different story.

  10. Darius: what do you see as Cleveland’s ‘holes’ and would you agree that pretty much any hole that they have could be quickly solved by substitution (admittedly at the risk of possibly creating a different hole)? None of the Lakers holes can be solved by substitution– who do we put in if our shots aren’t falling? Sasha? Who do we put in if our PG is getting torched? Jordan? Who do we put in if the ball isn’t moving? Luke? I mean, in all seriousness, those are the best answers I can find and none of them are real. Now compare that to the Cavs.

  11. #10. Out of all the teams left, I think Cleveland is the one with the least amount of holes. I’ll get that out of the way first. However, if you’re looking at their team they have a smallish backcourt and only have one big that has a combination of size and quickness to be a diverse defender – Varejao. I think this makes them vulnerable to certain teams on defense. Now, I agree 100% that substituions and depth play a big part in what Cleveland can do and will play a major role in their ability to advance. Last season they didn’t have a capable person to cover Rashard Lewis for example – Jamison should provide that this season. And this season they have many more options at almost every position to go to in case of a troubling matchup.

    But when I look at Cleveland, I also see a team that that relies on Lebron to create for others and I still do think they’re vulnerable to the “Steve Nash treatment” that Orlando hit them with last season. If you can single cover Lebron and limit his playmaking by turning him into a scorer, I think he’ll be efficient but that you can still limit the other Cavs’ ability to hurt you. Mo Williams had a rough series against the Magic last season and so did Big Z. Several of their other players (outside of Lebron – who is tremendous) have not proven themselves in the post season. Will that change this year? It’s not unreasonable to ask.

    This may seem like nit picking and it probably is. Like I said earlier, I’d place them as the #1 team right now and they should be the front runner going into the post season. Does that mean they’re unbeatable though? They may have less cracks in their armor than any other team but you still have to go out there and win. And some of their other guys (not Lebron) need to prove it too – just like some of our guys did last year.

    As for the Lakers, you’re right none of our holes can be solved by substitution. Our guys just need to play well. But that’s the same for every team. My point about our team though is that if they do play well they will be tough out – even for the Cavs or for the Magic or any other team that people put out there. It’s why I’m excited to see the games. I think we have run in us.

  12. I tend to agree with#7 Exhelodrvr in the sense that the team has lost its focus in the wake of last years success. At the beginning of the season it was always stated that it would be extremely difficult to maintain the same focus as the previous championship year.

    Whether its from players thinking their better than they really are because they have a ring, and causing a me first attitude and not thinking team first. Or from the other teams in the league circling the LA date on its calendar, and treating it as if it were a playoff game. There are no nights off in 82 games when you are the defending champion.

    The mental aspect of the game is what LA had to conquer this season, not the physical aspect. Considering that only two current players on the roster has defended a championship, it was likely that the team would struggle.

    Winning 54 games this year has been more about the individual talent on the roster, and not the team as a whole. With this amount of talent on one team their is no way that we should be having this conversation, but we are and that is what concerns me the the most.

  13. lil’ pau.. I wish Phil would try giving Sasha more burn right now. He is the only guard off the bench who has proven he CAN be a lights out shooter, and we’re not talking during the regular season, he proved it in the finals. The problem is, is that if Phil doesn’t play him now, its almost useless to play him in the playoffs, he’s going to be way out of rhythm, and out of game speed.

    I don’t know why Phil doesn’t tinker now, the clock is seriously ticking. Farmar and Shannon just feel like stopgaps right now, just giving Fisher some rest, but that situation is like waking up from a nightmare only to realize you’re in another. Caveat: It does seem as though Farmar as picked it up as of late, but Shannon’s handle, passing and decision making? Yikes.

  14. darius: well said. you are right of course that if we play well, we’re going to be very, very tough. my concern is that if we don’t play well, we have fewer corrections at our disposal than other teams. that said, we have PJ who is a master of game-to-game adjustments.

    i’m going to shut up now. thanks for the thoughtful attention to my posts. long live FB&G, long live the purple and gold.

  15. Ego just may be the Lakers biggest problem.

    Farmer and Brown come into the game and instead of running the offense and hitting the post they shoot 3-pointers. Ego has taken over common sense.

    Fisher thinks he is the shooter of 10 years ago so he goes 1 for 8 on 3′s and another 2 for 11 night. Ego has taken over.

    While Kobe shows up 3 hours before a game to practice shooting Artest shows up at game time and goes 1 for 9 from three’s. Ego has taken over.

    Ego is great if you can perform but if you think you are smarter then the coaches and better then you are then ego can be the bain of this Laker team.

  16. #14. lil’ pau,
    I share those same concerns. The Lakers need Kobe to play well and at least one of our bigs to be a terror on the low block. And at least one (and probably two) of Fisher, Artest, Odom, Brown, and Farmar will need to hit shots from deep in order to keep defenses honest. Will that happen? It’s why I’ll be watching.

    On another note, Kurt has a good post up that says the Spurs may end up as the 8th seed and that Utah could sneak their way into 2nd. You know who’s mad about that? The teams that end up in the Lakers’ bracket as the 8 and 4/5 seeds. Can you imagine Denver having to play Portland in the first round, advancing and then getting the Lakers? Or the Spurs, a few days after Pop saying he wants to stay out of 8th landing exactly there? Ouch.

  17. the lakers’ success rests on their team defense. that starts with the pg penetration (hello fish!) and flows from there. they have shown in spurts that they can do that, even without kobe. for me, defense is more about mind than muscle. if you believe in your teammates (kobe – hold back a little on the free safety stuff), check your ego to the curb (farmar, sasha, bynum) and push yourself beyond your expectations (pau no more crying) i think they’ll be playing in june. basically, everyone should play as hard as artest does on defense.

  18. Brown has been awful since the dunk contest. I think he has lost his swag. But
    Lakers are still the favorite followed by Orl. Clev is going to try and fit Shaq back in W/ Z is going to be a problem for them.

  19. Chownoir (was J) March 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Darius’ based on your Cle analysis, I think it’s even more worrisome then that the Lakers have struggled to be more efficient on offense.

    In the game at Cle, they couldn’t score down the stretch while Bron hit his jumpers, which you want him to do. My choice of poison vs him driving or dishing to open shooters.

    Hopefully Ron is allowed to body and pester Bron to expend energy without needing a double team. That would fall into your scenario of the Nash treatment.

    I was very frustrated and concerned at how easily Varejo and JJ would regularly cut to the basket and get passes from Bron or crash the boards creating second chances when Bron or the shooters would miss.

    Assuming people are healthy, it’s going to be interesting to watch Cle’s last few games against the top Eastern contenders. Despite Shaq missing, it might give some clues on how those teams would play Bron.

  20. Darius,
    Wanting to win is (IMO) not the same as “having the will to win”. Certainly they would like to win the title. I don’t think that they are as willing to make the sacrifices (i.e. focus and intensity) as they were last season.

  21. I wouldn’t say that I’m panicking, just that I’m pissed.

    And in the playoffs, this team isn’t secure enough to give away wins. Beating teams 4 times out of 7 is hard enough, but if they start giving away games like they have recently, or they did against Houston last year, they’re going to remove their margin for error against teams that have gotten better (all through the conference), while the Lakers aren’t playing as well.

    Maybe it doesn’t bite them in the ass, like it didn’t in 2002 when they had similar issues, but its bad form. I don’t think this team is built in such a way that it can find itself suddenly, especially on offense.

  22. the other stephen March 30, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    without belittling your post in the slightest, thank you for that rousing speech, general patton.

  23. I love the positive attitude, at least someone has it. But not me. The magic that surrounded the team the first 1.5 years of the Gasol era is all but gone. Not a single player is having a remarkable year. We have too many weaknesses. Our best 3-point shooter is Ron Artest, and I he’s hit 5% of 3s at times when we really, really need it. Who is having a good year? Nobody! Who was the last champ that didn’t have some form of buzz surrounding a player? I can’t wait til after this season, so we can get some fresh blood on this team. Frankly, I’m a little sick of watching Powell around like a headless chicken.

  24. that the lakers are coasting right now, am not that pleased.

    that the lakers are atop the west in spite and despite of things mostly of their own doing, i am somewhat pleased.

    that the lakers can come together and realistically dominate any team except a potentially physically imposing cleveland (nightmare scenario between pau and z, shaq and drew and pg penetration), i am hopeful.

    the real season is about to begin. GO LAKERS!

  25. Re: 23

    “Who was the last champ that didn’t have some form of buzz surrounding a player?”

    One could argue that with San Antonio, you know what you were going to get and they still won several titles.

    Also, 1st in the Western Conference with every player having an off year is something that no other team in the NBA could do. I would say a good majority of NBA teams would be lottery bound if that were the case. I definitely see what you’re trying to say, I just wanted to toss a positive wrinkle into the mix.

    With that said, I’d much rather have the Lakers peaking right now too and since that’s not happening, I too am a tad nervous.

  26. I see this team as biding its time until the playoffs. Getting Luke back to help facilitate the 2nd unit will help. And then there is our front court. No one can match up with us. For all the talk about Cleveland, I don’t believe enough credit goes Orlando’s way. Orlando won last year w/o HCA vs. Cle and will likely do it again. I see our team starting to fine tune for the only games that REALLY matter to the defending champs – the playoffs.

  27. I don’t think anyone can predict what the Lakers will do in the playoffs… but then again, just remember the Rockets series last year and tell me last year was different.

    On CLE. They are still clearly the team to beat. They have the MVP (sorry) and a deep roster. However, ORL has proved that they can still beat them (without Z or Shaq), and it is no slam dunk that Z and Shaq can slip into their lineup smoothly after time off. That reintegration to me is the biggest X factor for CLE.

    Anyway, as crummily as the Lakers have been playing, can you honestly say you would switch chances with any team besides the Cavs? I mean, yes most of the West /might/ beat the Lakers, but do you honestly think the Nuggets and Mavs fans are feeling so much more comfortable than we are (hint: check their recent record)? And CLE fans are even in worse shape – everyone now expects them to win and if they don’t win, there is a solid chance that the Savior will leave and their team will implode for a generation. THAT is a lot at stake, and THAT is terror.

    Last year, I have to say I was extremely confident that the Lakers would win it all. This year, of course I’m not at all confident. And that’s okay, that’s what sports are supposed to be like. Celebrate that the Lakers are still in great position to win a championship, be tense and anxious about their chances, but don’t take it for granted!

  28. Very good post Mr. Apricot

  29. Kaveh (3),
    Couldn’t agree with you more. We didn’t dominate this season because of a lack of talent at PG and on the bench and injuries to main players. Its just that simple.

  30. I’m sorry, but can someone tell me when Sasha proved he can be a good outside shooter besides his contract year?

  31. I heard something very interesting today on 710 ESPN, someone looked back at stats all the way back to the 90s and found that championship teams trying to repeat had a 5 game fall off the following season. This includes the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers who were each able to repeat within that time frame. The Lakers are right there in terms of their record this year.

    The thought behind this was that the championship team did indeed lose some of their focus, but also that other teams were better and hungier the following year. So perhaps we shouldn’t put too much stock in the way the Lakers are playing right now. The post season is a brand new season and the Lakers know what it takes to win games in the postseason as does Phil Jackson. The postseason is about adjustments and no one does it better than Phil.

    Another point or even a question I’d like to put out there is whether teams like CLE, ORL, DAL, DEN…are they putting there best effort and expending tons of energy now that they may possibly run out of gas when they need it most during the post season? While the Lakers have not even played to their potential yet and have not come anywhere near exerting playoff style energy during the regular season?

    We do have holes, but it seems that Phil has been a master of filling our holes as well as exploiting the holes of our opponents at the same time. It appears that the Lakers are rushing things out on the court, jacking up 3s when we don’t need them to, and not playing within the offense, these are all things I think will come when we get our full roster back. Players can start filling their roles as oppose to trying to play outside them due to injury. Just a thought.

    GO LAKERS!

  32. I agree with Ken

  33. amidst these dog days of the end of the regular season, I must say I’m actually looking forward to tom’ws game against Atl, which is a very good home team. it will be interesting to see if the Lakers can summon the energy they had in SA, in which case maybe this has indeed become merely a pre-playoff interest lag. if they get blown out, however, that’s a different story.

    also, has anyone commented on the (inevitable) bynum delay? now not expected back until den game at the earliest after a mysterious (stop me if you’ve heard this before) setback.

  34. Our 3pt shot is missing, period.

    In the magical 2008 season and in our championship 2009 season, we had 3 pt shooting. Something that the other team HAD to respect.

    2008 Sasha was improved on with 2009 Ariza, especially during the post season when Ariza was scorching from the 3.

    However, 2010 Artest has not been able to duplicate 2009 Ariza’s success from downtown, and both Fisher and Kobe have dropped off bigtime beyond the arc.

    This is what’s hurting us, more than anything. We have Bynum, Pau, Odom, and even Kobe who are effective inside, but nary a soul that is effective OUTSIDE.

    That makes us very weak against zones, and will also negate our biggest advantage, size and length, since they can just pack it instead.

    On the other hand, we won 54 games without decent 3pt shooting. But our roster is littered with potential 3 point shooters: Fisher, Kobe, Odom, Artest, Sasha, Walton, and maybe even Morrison.

    If just one of them can bring it in the playoffs, we’d be seeing dominant performances night in and night out. If two or three of them bring their outside shots… we can really talk about sweeping.

  35. @harold: Ariza got hot for the Playoffs. He was a bricklayer in the regular season (31%) and is a bricklayer now and has been virtually his entire career safe for last year’s Playoffs. Meawhile Ron is shooting 37% from three, which leads the team.

    So while I agree with you that our outside shooting is seriously lacking, portraying Ariza out of all people as the guy who other teams had to respect (when in fact they let him shoot all the time because of his dreadful jumpshot) and say that Artest hasn’t been able do to so isn’t correct, in my opinion.

    What really drives me nuts is the amount of wide open shots our guards (along with LO and Ron) are capable of missing… Imagine Kobe and Pau having some of what LeBron and Shaq have – 3 guys shooting over 41% from deep. Yikes.

    But in the end I still believe, because this is the team I’ve been following for almost 2 decades and because I have a feeling that they have an extra gear ready for when the real season starts. At least I hope they do, I don’t think I could take another loss in the Finals (if they do get that far) in a span of 6 years.

  36. someone briefly touched on this above, but perhaps the best thing that could happen to this team is a disaster in the postseason and a wholesale housecleaning for next year. in spite if all the pleas here to keep a rosy outlook, this has been a difficult year to be a Lakers fan, and I shudder to think of another offseason with little or no roster development.

    I hasten to add that I’m not predicting a disaster (or am I?), just laying some groundwork for the postmortem; i.e. how can we proceed from here to fix things, rather than how did things get so bad.

  37. The Lakers will surely win the Western Conference, but I’m worried if they will face cleveland on the finals… This team has so many advantage, Home court, bench players, Lebron… If the Lakers managed to take game 1 of the series, my money is on the Lakers. Cleveland might choke during game 1. Because most of its players will just play thier first finals game. Same thing happened last year when orlando was crushed by the Lakers on Game 1.

    Hopefully this will be the case so that Lebron won’t win his 1st championship at the expense of Kobe.

  38. I love this Laker team exactly as it is. That includes our cocaptain Derek Fisher and all the other players that regularly are attacked, criticized, and insulted on this blog. I’m glad Jerry Buss brought them back–and I’m glad that they are human and vulnerable.

    This team is the only team that has been to the NBA finals the last 2 years. They’ve played more games than any other team. They’re the defending champs and every road game is treated like the world championship by opponents–and sells out.

    They may lose in the first round of the western conference playoffs–or they may win another NBA championship–and I’ll be watching that last game–whenever it happens–and I’ll thank the Laker team for the journey–whatever the outcome.

    Only then will I begin to seriously think about next season and possible changes in next year’s squad.

  39. We’re still the number 2 team going into the playoffs. Making it out of the west is going to be a tough battle but we still have our team D to fall back on.

    LA’s team defense has been a top 3 unit all season long. The Artest/Kobe duo are going to ruin any wing scorers dream of having a good series against LA. That means you Melo, Durant, Roy, Butler & Ginobili.

    The Lakers have so much potential its scary. The problem is we might not see them hit their peak this playoffs. The offense has been mediocre, the three point shooting has been terrible, there’s been constant injuries and Kobe hasn’t been himself since the start of the season.

    Even if the Lakers don’t win it this year, its not the end of this team as a contender, there’s always next season.

    Question: If LA plays Cleveland, what do you think our chances of winning the series are?

    Right now I’d have to say it’s a 67-33% split for Cleveland. What do you think?

  40. 35, um, I don’t feel as if this has been a particularly difficult year to be a Lakers fan. I think 2004-05 was a much more difficult year. Or most of the time between Magic and Kobe (barring some of those fun Van Exel, Eddie Jones teams).

    If we go through another year with little or no roster development, we’ll still be more than likely to hit 50 wins, get a high seed in the playoffs, and have a shot at the championship. I think you should thank your lucky stars that you were not born a Timberwolves fan.

    27, I think you’ve captured the essence of Kurt’s “enjoy the ride” mantra that Darius has tried to emulate. In the end, whether we experience the joy of winning or the heartbreak of losing, at least our team won’t be sitting at home come playoff time.

  41. @tsuwm: you really feel that this current team needs a shakeup?!? really?!? after a 50+ win season you think the best thing is a desaster in the postseason??? you cant be serious… right?

    our team might have a lack of focus on some nights, but we still have the second best record in the entire league, and if we´d be in the eastern conference we would have the best record, no doubt.

    there is a much bigger chance that we find our focus and swagger than say, other teams suddenly becoming more talented, skilled, or “taller”. we have everything that we need to repeat. we have the best coach, the best closer and leader and many more things that other teams can only dream of, and some of you already think of rebuilding?!?

    when i think of our team, i see so many mismatches for other teams its sick. granted, we dont have much to offer at the pg spot, but we own on almost every other position.

    - best shooting guard
    - best defensive small forward (next to gerald wallace)?
    - a power forward that can run the point, hit threes but still rebounds better than almost any other pf in the league (in limited minutes…)
    - the most offensively skilled pf in the entire league next to chris bosh and tim duncan
    - second best center in the entire league(next to dwight)

    isnt that a lot to be excited about? we always have troubles with good pg´s, but so do most teams. in a playoff series we will actually get the chance to prepare properly. we bring multiple mismatches for every team.

    when i think of cleveland, i can see how they are because of lebron and his playmaking, but they dont have players who can create their own shots. andersen, hickson, even shaq all need someone to set them up. jamison can create for himself, but we have very good options to defend him in pau and lamar. mo williams and anthony parker can hit the open shot, but they dont bring what our lineup can do. kobe, pau, lamar and andrew can all get a good shot off if they want to 1vs1. kobe can even get a decent look 1vs2. the cavs only have lebron, and while you cant let kobe shoot jumpers, you can certainly use that tactic against the king. the play really well as a team, but in the playoffs things start to slow down and sometimes you just need someone to force a bucket. thats when things get tricky for teams like the cavs,

    i am 95% sure that we will repeat (if andrew gets back to around 80%). without bynum i still like our chances this year at about 60%. call me optimistic, but we have so many advantages, that its hard to dismiss our chance because a lack of focus, pg troubles and low 3pt%.

  42. #35: “…perhaps the best thing that could happen to this team is a disaster in the postseason and a wholesale housecleaning for next year…”

    This is completely un-understandable for me. How can the best possible outcome for the second best seed in the league (and arguably the second best or best team) be a disaster???

    That has got to be a joke!?

    How about a championship?

    Look around the league for a moment: Bobcats are thrilled to be close to a playoffspot! Hawks are flying high on their ability to yet again secure one, and now possibly hold on to a top 4 spot! Dallas are grooving… as they are closing in on a 5-2 spot in the west…

    Rockets and Grizz have arguably played out of their minds… and are not making the playoffs.

    Maybe you don´t wanna celebrate our situation, but you have to admit, that there are better possibilities on the horizon than disaster!?

    We are in a great position, even if we believe it could be even better.

  43. Hehe… no one had commented on #35 when I hit “submit”…

  44. 37 -”Cleveland might choke during game 1. Because most of its players will just play their first finals game. Same thing happened last year when Orlando was crushed by the Lakers on Game 1.”

    Yea that Finals game 1 last year was interesting. It seemed like Orlando didn’t know how to bring the intensity.

  45. Forget all this stuff about the regular season and roster development and matchups and HCA. The only two questions I ask are:

    in crunch time

    Kobe vs.
    Carmelo/Billups
    Dirk
    VC (ew)
    LeBron

    PJ vs.
    George Karl (at best?)
    Carlisle
    SVG
    Mike Brown (ew)

    I’ll take us.

  46. @30 ray – “I’m sorry, but can someone tell me when Sasha proved he can be a good outside shooter besides his contract year?”

    The key phrase here is BESIDES his contract year. Has anyone else on the roster, ever in their career, shot at that 43.7% clip that Sasha did that year? Not one. Ever. If he gets some minutes, who knows what he can do? We know he busts his butt in practice and shoots an insane amount of jumpers.

    @34 – harold

    Thank you! Atleast someone else is on the same page as me with this. Our offense is struggling because we’re abysmal from beyond the arc. We are currently tied for 20th in the league in 3point FG%. If we aren’t hitting the outside shot the opposition just packs the paint thereby making it difficult for Pau & Bynum to score, decreasing offensive board/putback chances, and decreasing driving opportunities

    @35 – matthew

    If we had 3 players hitting 40+% of their threes? We’d be closing in on the Bulls regular season record, no exaggeration. Seriously.

    Our 3 point shooting is what fueled the championship run last year. Odom shot 51.4%, Shannon shot 48% and Ariza shot 47.6% from beyond the arc. Please read those numbers again. Those percentages were 19.9%, 14.9%, and 16.2% above their career averages, respectively.

    2009 Playoffs 3Point FG%
    Odom 51.4%
    Brown 48%
    Ariza 47.6%

    Are you kidding me with those numbers? Am I just crazy? It seems like 1 out of 30 commenters here is actually addressing this. We talk about the PG defense problem daily, but somehow we were top 2 in defense for the majority of the season despite it.

    THIS is the real problem.

  47. Zephid, as a matter of fact I *am a T’wolves fan. {ecch} but the Lakers were here first, and my sympathies, for the most part, moved west with them.

    also to you, and others, joking? not really – just asking the musical question: what if? in the interests of limiting negativity I won’t say how I really feel about the upcoming playoffs.

    as to coaching matchups, I think that everyone gave PJ a huge edge over Rivers in 2008…

  48. While I agree with most of your post, you didn’t mention that for this last road trip, there have been players missing games. I do believe the team will dramatically improve as you say, when the playoffs start, however, I think we’ll begin to see that change when Bynum and Walton come back….

  49. I strongly disagree. There is something we can do, but it won’t be done.

    Our best lineup this year is Farmar/Bryant/Artest/Odom/Gasol. All year we have not played our best lineups.

    Statistically, the Lakers are significantly better with the Odom/Gasol combination than Bynum/Gasol. It should be a foregone conclusion that Odom starts in the playoffs, but with Phil’s stubbornness, you never know.

    Also, in limited time Farmar has been vastly better with the starters than Fisher. It is long past time to give him a chance. It’s not like you can’t switch back to Fisher at any time if it doesn’t work.

  50. Fish with the second unit only works in theory when you talk about how what he brings to the table is leadership, facilitating the offense, and so on.

    The reality is only the starters could hope to cover up Fish’s deficiencies with all their length and ability to help on defense as well as the slow pace at which they play and of course all the attention they draw on offense.

    Although Fish actually could help when Gasol’s running the second unit and we DJ out there swatting all the flies that get by our guards. While we’re all waiting for Luke to help the bench learn how to pass into the post that’s a role that could’ve been covered by Fish.

  51. lesha, I am with you with those percentages, and good comment also.

  52. Geez, this sounds like my golf game—-consistently inconsistent..

  53. sT thank you. at least someone :)

  54. well, i think the lakers are playing complacently since they want to reserve their onslaughts for the upcoming season, its okay to lose many of the upcoming games as long as they maintain the no.1 spot in the west, everything will change in the playoffs lakers fans, every possession will be valuable (edited)