Lakers/Suns Series Preview Part 2: Looking At The Benches

Darius Soriano —  May 13, 2010

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When you take a look at the Suns, it’s easy to get caught up in the big names – Nash and Amar’e or even Hill and Richardson.  But, one of the keys to their success in the regular season and the playoffs has been the performance of their reserve players.  The Suns go a legitimate 10 deep and the 5 players that make up their bench are strong contributors that are heavily relied upon to cut deficits, increase leads, and continue the style of play that the Suns’ starters impose on opponents.  If you haven’t done so already, go check out the great scouting report that is up at Land O’ Lakers that provides a breakdown of all the Suns players (including their bench guys).  Those tidbits of information will surely be on the minds of the Lakers as how they match up with this group of guys will go a long way in determining the outcome of this series.

I think it’s fair to say that the Suns bench is one of their advantages over this Lakers team.  As I mentioned, there are 5 guys – Dragic, Barbosa, Dudley, Amundson, Frye – that have been brought along and nurtured to the point that they are confident and reliable players that play the style of game the Suns want.  And while on an individual level they may not be extremely talented, they mesh well as a group and play off each other as well or better than any second unit in the league.  The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts with this group and if the Lakers are going to match up with them, they’ll not only need to adhere to the scouting reports but they’ll also need to find a way to match up with these players in a way that limits their individual effectiveness and thus throw off that unit’s dynamic.

At this point, I think we should explore who from the Lakers second unit is likely to see time in this series.  We all know that the key Lakers’ reserves are the trio of Odom, Farmar, and Brown.  These players have been in the rotation all season and will be important players in this series as well.  However, these aren’t the only capable Lakers substitutes.  Against Utah, Luke Walton got some burn and showed well in the minutes that he received.  His passing, post up game, and ability to initiate the Lakers sets may have added value against a Suns team that the Lakers want to slow the pace against and punish with inside play and precise execution.  And then there’s Sasha who will likely be healthy enough to play in this series after being out for nearly a month with his sprained left ankle.  If fully recovered, Sasha’s potential as a shooter and irritant on defense could also come in handy against a perimeter oriented team where he can pressure ball handlers on defense while trying to space the floor for the Lakers post players on offense.

After comparing these sets of players, it’s pretty obvious that the Suns have the better group.  The best player from either side is Odom, but after him I’d say that at least 3 (and maybe 4) of the next best players come from the Suns side (I’d take Barbosa, Dragic, Frye over our guys and maybe even Amundson – though I like Brown/Farmar/Walton as much in the roles that they play for us).  So, how will the Lakers match up with this group?  I think the answer to that question will come in how each of the teams units has been deployed during the playoffs.

Stylistically, we should understand that Phil doesn’t substitute in mass and rarely has more than 3 bench players (including Odom, who plays starter minutes) on the floor at one time.  And while Phoenix deploys their substitutes in much the same way (with Nash and Amar’e playing heavy minutes and one of Hill/Richardson being the third starter on the floor a lot), the Suns do trot out more units where multiple combinations of bench players are playing together.  For example, the Suns 4th ranked unit (in terms of minutes played) is the unit with all 5 bench players together on the court.  Also understand that 5 of the Suns’ 8 most frequently used units feature either Amundson or Dudley at PF.   Will these units (the all 5 bench players or the Dudley/Amundson at PF) be able to stay with the size of the units that the Lakers are likely to trot out considering that two of Bynum/Gasol/Odom will be on the court at all times?  This is where the contrast begins and where Phoenix’s advantage in their talented reserves will be tested.

We should also note that Phil is not beyond going to specific match ups to see if the presence of one (or more) of our bench players can be used to shut down a specific player from the other team.  I mean, earlier this season Phil deployed Sasha on Dragic for nearly every minute that Goran played.  Remember, both Sasha and Dragic are from Slovenia and there is a familiarity that Phil would like to try and tap into.  Also, in the past Phil has loved to use Odom on players that have Frye’s skill set as LO’s mobility to chase big men around the perimeter and run them off the three point line (ala how Phil used Odom against Okur in last seasons’ playoff series vs. Utah).  These are just two examples, but I would not doubt if Phil finds a pet match up or two that he tries to go to in order to limit specific players and get them out of their game.  As I mentioned earlier, this group is one that meshes well and plays very well together.  If you can weaken a link in that chain, you can go a long way in disrupting the entire group dynamic.

While series’ are usually won and lost on the backs of the starters (and more specifically the star players), the benches will have their say in determining the winner of the WCF.  And as we’ve seen over the past few seasons (as well as in the last series in Korver) a great performance off the bench can easily turn a game around or give a team an extra boost on any given night.  The Suns have some explosive bench players that have been doing it for years (Barbosa, Frye) and others that have really stepped up this season to become real threats (Dragic, Dudley).  Will the Lakers bench be able to match them?  Or will the presence of starters on every “bench” unit help the Lakers against a team that likes to trot out its reserves by the handful?  Which match ups do you think will be most important in these units?  Let me know in the comments.

Tomorrow, we continue our series by taking a look at the Suns when they have the ball.

Darius Soriano

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138 responses to Lakers/Suns Series Preview Part 2: Looking At The Benches

  1. I agree, the Suns bench will be a test for the Lakers. But as Darius touched upon, the Lakers second unit will include Bynum, Odom, Artest, Brown and Farmar. Therefore, the Lakers will still have a tremendous advantage inside. However it is contingent upon if they decide to launch a bunch of 3 pointers or run the offense right. But that’s an even bigger mismatch than the lakers have with the Starting unit. Frye/Lopez and Admunson will not be able to contain Odom and Bynum.

    The lakers have the style and players to counter every “advantage” the Suns may have. It’s easier said then done, but this Laker team is dialed in. If the bring the right focus and intensity and they execute, it just will not matter who the Suns have or what they do.

  2. Darius,

    Great stuff. I’d make one addition…

    You said that after Odom, you’d take Barbosa, Dragic, and Frye from their bench before another player from the Lakers. I’d add Dudley to the list. I might even put him right behind Odom on that list. He has shown up for every game in the playoffs for the Suns. He single-handedly turned one of the games against SA into a win for the Suns because he wanted it more than anyone else. Additionally, not only is he a lights-out 3pt shooter, but he seems to hit 3’s at the right times for the Suns, too. When he is on the floor, his impact needs to be controlled for the Lakers to win the “bench battle.”

  3. There are two pairs of players who are the key to this series IMO.

    Kobe and Pau because when both of them are out of the game together we are particularly vulnerable.

    Farmar and Shannon because they both tend to lose sight of the offense when they are in together and their combined defense isn’t as consistent as other combinations.

    When Kobe and Pau are out and Farmar and Shannon are in we are particularly at a disadvantage. How Phil manages this combination of players will have a lot to do with this series.

  4. That scouting report from Land O’ Lakers was really interesting. He specifically mentions 3 Suns as targets to draw charges:


    Also, Sasha was made to guard Dragic. He can justify his salary if he shuts him down effectively.

  5. When Barbosa is in Fish will probably will be out so I suspect Phil will not emphasize taking charges against him. I would concentrate on Richardson diving to the basket from the baseline – he seems most vulnerable there. Amare is like Lamar, in that he makes up his mind early, so we need to concentrate on his drives.

  6. The Suns do not have anyone that matches up with our secret weapon… Ammo.

  7. Yeah, maybe Darius can write up a post about who is gonna be the Ammo-stopper for phoenix.

    Gentry has done a good job with this group, I’m happy to see him having some luck (after coaching the clippers) Last year, Dragic was thought to be a total bust but he’s really improved a lot and as we’ve seen, he’s become a legit threat.

  8. I still remember Suns were riding a hot streak early in the year until they met the Lakers and were totally dominated by the Lakers.

  9. So you all realize that Lebron will drop 40+ tonight, and then win game 7 at home proving that game 5 was a carefully choreographed ruse just to make sure his name dominated all NBA news during a week that no other team played ball?

  10. 9, that’s what i was thinking. If LeBron brings out a typical game and wins, he’s back to being king again, all with ‘the elbow’ and ‘being down but not out.’

    On the other hand, if he loses tonight, he seems very very ripe to join Kobe as a player who has as many haters as fans despite his skills. If anything, this week has shown that there are many who are fed up with the hype machine, with the tolerance for hype decreasing every year LeBron does not advance to the finals.

    But that’s just an interesting sidebar to help us endure the wait between the games that really matter – ours.

    The thing with the Suns bench going 10 deep versus us going 8 deep is that they’ll have fresher legs to keep push pace. With Kobe’s age, mileage and injuries, along with the injuries on Bynum and others, it’ll be tough if all 10 of the Suns can produce.

    We’re really going to see what our team is made of, and if we survive this sharp shooting running team that is back from the dead, we should be ready for Orlando’s sharpshooters.

  11. Sorry this isn’t about the benches. But I just have to say something about the play of Derek Fisher.

    Derek has been really good overall in these playoffs and especially great against Utah. I think he had added motivation to play well against Utah, but eitherway he has stepped up. He’s knocking down shots, driving to the basketball and actually making most of his layups, he’s diving on the floor and getting back on defense in addition to breaking up fastbreaks. he is always going to be a liability on defense but he makes up for alot of it with effort.

    I don’t think any of this would be possible with out Phil allowing Derek to play all year through his deficiencies and still allowing him to start and keep confidence up even when he wasn’t playing well.

    I just felt it was necessary to say something with all the heat Fisher took during the year for his poor play.

    I feel confident that at the end of the game we have not only Kobe but we also have Derek who will be make a clutch basket when we need it.

    As far as the bench. The Suns bench is effective due to the fact they come in the game and give them a shot in the arm. The are total energy and effort. We need to keep Ahmundson off the offensive glass and limit their open 3 point attempts which is easier said then done.

    Bottom line the Suns will be a challenge but there is no way the Lakers are losing this series. The Lakers that were here Kobe, Lamar and Luke. They remember that heart breaking series when they were up 3-1and lost they want payback.

  12. Truthfully, harold, it is the hype machine that is fed up with the hype machine. The one constant about hype is that it demands change and cannot abide continued success.

    The media rule is that you are required to eat your own. However, the eatee always seems surprised when they realize they are what’s for dinner.

  13. Sorry to go off-topic here, but can we assume why the Cavs are struggling as of this moment is because of rotations that aren’t supposed to be?

    Stay for example, they had Hickson starting who really is an energy guy throughout the season, but then for any reason undetermined, Brown decided to ditch him in the playoffs, playing him insignificant minutes.
    I understand that Hickson starting is 2-1 over the Celtics this season, and Shaq is 0-1.

    So, might this be more of the fact that Hickson plays better than Shaq or the fact that Shaq has more experience on the court?

    and the fact that Rondo is a beast?

  14. While Orland has just as many sharpshooters as the Suns (maybe more), they are not comparable. Dwight Howard’s presence brings a whole different dimension to the game.

    And I’d love for the Lakers to get a rematch against the C’s, with the added bonus of LeBron’s yet another failure.

  15. JM, very true, I just hope Kobe gets it and stays home on his man instead of roaming.

    And, uhm, if we do get the Celtics, where would that rank in the Karmic scale?

    At any rate, I know I should enjoy all NBA talents equally, or at least not have too much malice, but I’m secretly hoping that Cleveland loses.

    Now if there was a way where both teams could lose, I’d definitely wish for that, but for that to happen, somebody on the winning team would have to get injured, and that’s something I’m not willing to wish even on the Celtics.

    … not that I’d mind if they were punished for that wheelchair stint, but I think they cleared that debt when KG went down last year…

  16. If the Cavs lose which Is what Is going on now with 8:01 in the second It’s because MIke Brown Is a terrible playoff coach

  17. LA guards( WOW, Farmar) coming off the bench has been a consistant issue throughout the season. If they run the offense and dont take too many quick jumpers, like in the Utah series, our bench will be able to keep up with the Suns.

    LA’s bench does not have the same role as Phoenix, so to compare them by numbers alone is misleading. Phoenix needs its bench for offense, LA needs the bench to maintain leads or keep the game close playing within the offense. If the bench scores between 20 and 25 points everything should be fine.

  18. the phoenix bench does three things.

    first, it enhances their screen-roll game. while a traditional PF will clog the paint, frye and dudley create space. additionally, they’re good shooters, so leaving them to help stop penetration is risky. on top of that, you can also play pick and pop with them. they’re a very good complement to phoenix’s playmakers. good synergy among their personnel.

    secondly, they create mismatches. barbosa can usually get by his man with his speed, and draw a help defender, penetrating and kicking brokeback mountain-style. dragic typically needs a screen to free himself up, but if there’s a switch a mismatch is created. he’s strong and quick enough to get into the paint against bigger players.

    the third thing is that they all run the floor quite well, and move purposefully to open spaces for transition 3s.

    there is good synergy between their bench and the starting lineup, since the offense is predicated on the screen-roll game, and there’s a good mix of playmakers and frontcourt players with shooting range.

  19. LeBron’s elbow must be bothering him, but at least stat-wise, he seems very active this game as opposed to the game before, already having hauled in 12 rebounds.

    But wow, Boston is really intent on closing, and they seem to be peaking deep into the playoffs as they did in their championship season. It would be interesting if they play the role of Orlando this year and send the 8-0 team back home… and lose to us 🙂

  20. Jeff Van Gundy does make me laugh “so what if your bleeding, blood clenses the soul!”

  21. Lebron putting up another choke job offensively so far.

  22. @harold
    I’m watching the game, and he really was invisible the first half. I caught myself looking for him several times, trying to verify if he really was on the floor or not.

    This is an ugly game. None of these teams look the least bit intimidating right now.

  23. im starting to think that lebron’s elbow is bothering him cos today he is trying but his jump shot is off and clearly hedoesnt trust, that being said he needs to do more if cleveland are to win

  24. Lebron this year would have had no excuses, IMO. This year’s CAVS team had too much talent (5 all-stars and a deep bench). Again, if they lose this game. Another “Zing for the King”.

  25. Wow. I feel so darn confused. I hate the Celtics, but at the same time I do not believe the Cavs deserve to win this series. Jim Rome had an excellent take on the whole LeQueen thing which I will summarize as follows: Dude aint playing like a guy that is obsessed with getting a title, rather, he plays like a guy who doesnt know what to do when things dont go his way.

  26. He’s at least getting quadruple-double.

  27. As soon as Celtics win this game I will resume my full-blown hatred of them.

  28. If the Cavs lose, will Lebron shake hands at the end of the game? Will he skip the press conference again as well? Will he make Nike confiscate all of the ESPN cameras and videos of the game?

  29. And it’s a 4-point game.

  30. 9-point game.

  31. I just cheered after Pierce made a three.

    This is not healthy.

  32. I must confess my sin…i got excited on that turnover by legone and made layup by rondo. feeling really guilty that i’m rooting for the leps tonight.

  33. One team will win this game, and that’s the true tragedy of it all.

    Also – I’d root for a team with Hitler, Osama, Jeffrey Dahmer, Mao and Mussolini before I’d root for the Celtics.

  34. Gotta give props to Tony Allen, he’s doing a hell of a job on the Lebacle.

  35. We need a confession post later to purge us of our sins.

    I cheered for Boston.

  36. 33, I totally agree. I feel all dirty on the inside getting this excited about a Celtics win.

  37. why why, i hate celtics no matter what! also, 7th game is not too bad either!

    14 points game now. is it over?

  38. God damn that Wallace 3 and KG dunk got me hyped up>.< what is wrong with me!!!

  39. I smiled when I looked at the score and then I threw up a little in my mouth… God I hope the C’s get destroyed by Orlando.

  40. This season just showed that it’s difficult to trade up.

    Dallas, Cleveland, and the Spurs. All of their costly signings disappeared when it mattered.


  41. I’ll have to repent later. I’m rooting for the cavs to lose and not so much for the leps to win. but i keep finding myself fist-pumping for the steals and made shots by the leps…

  42. Harrold-
    I specifically got on here to say the exact same thing. I stopped mid-clap with that realization and had myself a good shudder.

  43. I’m a Celtics hater!! But why the hell I am excited for them winning this game.

    Zing for the King.

    The true King will be in the Finals.

  44. LeBron is the big story (obviously) but how about Jamison’s choke job over the last 3 games? And that’s not even accounting for the fact that KG has been schooling him all series long.

    With Jamison disappearing and Ilgauskas a non-factor throughout the playoffs, that championship-sealing trade isn’t looking quite so brilliant now is it?

  45. The Cavs are tightening up; the Cs are not.

  46. C’mon guys. Let’s be frank. We are all just spoiled so much by Lebrons great game that we just can’t stand it when he has one or two bad games in a 7 year span… right?

  47. The Cavaliers are flustered. They don’t know what to do right now. Perfect.

    LeBron still isn’t as aggressive as he should be. Right now, the Lakers would have Kobe with the rock and Gasol setting the high P&R.

  48. Kevin Garnett May 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Difficult to trade up, but not impossible.

  49. Oh oh…. Garnett is here. Shouldn’t he be barking on all fours at Lebron?

  50. no, that’s not right. he’s had 4 bad games in 7 years. we are so spoiled. but it’s ok, he’ll fell sorry for himself later.

  51. @fake KG,
    Yeah, harold kinda implied that already.

  52. Look guys…

    First of all kehn…c’mon now. No you wouldn’t.

    Secondly…let’s not forget why we want the Celtics to win. It ain’t because we like them. It’s because not getting the opportunity to get revenge on them in the Finals will be one of the biggest bummers of the Laker decade. They never got to avenge that Pistons loss, but here’s a legitimate chance to avenge the loss that hurt worse.

    Just don’t lose your soul staring into the green abyss and you’ll be alright. Neither the Cavs nor the Magic are legitimate foils to the Lakers. But the Celts are. And the prospect of another Lakers/Celts final is better to me at least, than any other possible matchup, by a long-shot.

  53. What are they chanting?

  54. Man us james and his team the KING of chockers.

    The reason we want the hated green to win is we get home court and big time revenge.

    And we are all sick of the King patting himselve on the back.

    He is plain and simple not a winner when it counts.


  55. Okay now I actually feel sorry for Cleveland.

  56. JM: They are chanting: “New York Nicks..”. this is hilarious. Man, can you imagine the crowd when LBJ is taken out of the game for good in about 1 minute?

  57. Yeah, why do I feel sorry for CLE. I think I wanted the Lakers to face and beat them, if both made the Finals

  58. wonder if he storm off or shake hands and do interviews?

    Bet Kobe is loving this big time!

  59. i must admit i overreacted when cavs got jamison. he’s just a big choker

  60. Will LeBron shake the Celtics’ hands after the game?

  61. who wants to bet on whether the king will shake hands or not? i say not.

  62. impressed that simmons got that “new york knicks” chant

  63. who is watching for the hand shake?

  64. Oh wow…the Cavs didn’t even try in that last minute.

  65. Na na na na…hey hey hey…good bye!

  66. Cleveland is going to implode this offseason. James will be gone, and Mike Brown will be 100% gone.

  67. wow at least he was man enough to hang around and shake hands. i was wrong.

  68. I really don’t get it, the Cavs had plenty of time to foul, LBJ didn’t even demand the ball going down the stretch and with 40 seconds remaining Mo Williams was jogging up the court and wasn’t even trying to act as if the game mattered.

    I understand you’re down 8-9pts but that says to me one thing, the Cavs quit and that’s just sad. LBJ did have a decent game except for the 9 TO’s I believe. All in all and as much as it makes me sick to say it, I’m glad Boston won simply because I’ll cheer for any team that we have home court advantage over.

  69. Ok, I am shocked. Shocked at how CLe gave up that last few minutes. That was so odd. And LJ did congratulate the Celtics. Somehow I feel that this did not hurt him as much as last year. That is so odd. Hard to believe.

  70. Nice year for Shaq.

    Wife sues him for millions.

    Avarages 5 a game in playoffs.

    Has Celts and Garnett put it in his face.

    Time to get out your SAG card shaq.

  71. Am I the only one wishing this game had been on TNT just to see that crew’s reactions?

  72. Now, Lebron, if you could just sign a mid-level exception with us.

  73. Well, its not just that the Cavs got Jamison mid season, its that they were playing so well for great stretches the 2nd half of the season.

    One can be gifted with great physical abilities in the game of basketball, but that’s not what makes champions. Its what’s between the ears, what kind of killer instincts does he possess and its clear that Lebron is not yet in the same caliber of player as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, Larry Bird nor Magic Johnson. Just that simple!

  74. Okay, everyone else who also were excited that the Celtics won this and moved on: It’s okay.

    You don’t need to feel dirty. It’s understandable and fully acceptable to be happy that Boston won against Cleveland and advanced to the ECF.

    It’s okay, because we want to meet them again in the NBA Finals, and make them pay for what they did the last time that happened. So let’s be happy! Our dreams of revenge just came one step closer to coming true… now, we just have to hope that they beat Orlando.

  75. Mark are you saying he would play over Ammo and Walton?

  76. If the Lakers do not (knock on wood) win a championship this year, what is your preference for who does?

    Mine is 1) Orlando 2) Phoenix 3) Nuclear winter 4) zombie apocalypse 5) Boston.

  77. #76, my preference is 1.) zombie apocalypse (it’ll be cool) 2.) Nuclear winter 3.) Phoenix 4.) Orlando 5.) Boston

    But we do agree on Boston 🙂

  78. I vote for the Clippers.

    oh wait you listed that above as zombie apocalypse!

  79. I’d want to say Phoenix, but I don’t know if I could recover from the sting of losing. Hill would make a good story and Nash is a likable player and person.

    I hate Vince and just not a huge fan of the Magic.

    Obviously, Zombie Apocalypse and nuclear winter are preferable to Boston winning.

  80. Regardless of the loss I really don’t see LBJ leaving Cleveland. Where will he go? He has a good team around him and wherever he goes be it NY, NJ, Chicago or Miami I don’t think he’d be able to compete for a championship any time soon as he can with the team he has around them.

    I do somewhat feel bad for the “King”, he is a great athlete and this reminds me of how high people were on our very own KB24 and how things turned for the worst; this situation with LBJ reminds me of this. Plus if they want to continue the comparisons of Jordan & LBJ, Jordan didn’t win a title until he was 28, LBJ is 25, he’s got plenty of time…hopefully not until Kobe retires, lol.

  81. rich u think staying in cleveland is a better chance of winning a title then playing with rose, noah and deng?

  82. I just wonder what big moves the Cavs could do that could improve their team. Obviously they’ll probably get rid of Mike Brown. But what else? I don’t know how they could get rid of Jamison’s salary, and if LeBron stays, he’s getting a big raise.

  83. And there’s the possibility of a superstar team-up in New York or something, right?

  84. LeBron will not win a championship in the near future by staying in Cleveland. Look at last season. They “bolstered” their team and look how it turned out. This Cavs team was better than last year’s.

  85. will we see artest knocking paula pierce out of his wheel chair?!?!?!

  86. @ 81 James – Honestly yes, Deng does not show up consistently at all and in order for Rose to be as good as he is, he needs to dominate the ball and I don’t see him having great chemistry with LBJ. Noah I do like but really is there much difference between him and Andy? Both are hustle, energy players so there’s not much difference between them.

    Do you really think a lineup of Rose/Heinrich/Deng/LBJ/Miller or Noah is better than Mo/Parker/James/Jamison/Shaq or Z? Granted Heinrich is a great defender so I can admit that I’d rather have Heinrich over Parker…but like I said I just don’t see Rose having chemistry with LBJ.

  87. Hey all, long-time lurker (reader since the Kurt days) here, just dropping in to say…does it seem like the the stars are aligning?

    First LeBron gets run out of the playoffs again, which should at least get a temporary respite from the “Chosen One” hype (at least for as long as it takes for everyone to start blaming his supporting cast again).

    Now we get to avenge two postseasons’ worth of futility against the Suns and then…possibly the Celtics in the Finals.

    I seriously hope I didn’t just jinx us <_<

  88. @83/Needle
    I seriously doubt any NBA superstars will want to go to New York. Why should they?

    Chris Broussard explains it very well in this little column.

    Also, I’d like to go on record as stating that though Mike Brown should take some share of the blame for this post-season choke-fest, it would be a mistake to heap it all on him. You can’t credit Lebron for every win and blame every loss on his coach. Either you put everything on one of them, or you share it evenly. I even don’t think Mike Brown deserves to be fired for this playoff disaster, since it’s obvious to anyone who watched the games that Lebron James completely gave up and stopped trying as soon as the elbow gave him an excuse.

    I have a new-found respect for Anderson Varejao though, the only player on the Cavs who went down fighting.

  89. Man I can’t believe Laker fans could root for the Celtics, even in this circumstance I could not muster any support for the team that KG plays for.

  90. @89 – lol I wasn’t necessarily rooting for Boston, I was rooting for an opportunity to get revenge against the men in green.

  91. @Bobji
    What Rich said. Read my comment #84.

    Revenge! One more team stands between us and payback. We must get there!

  92. You know what would be the most awesome thing in the world?

    If Lebron James turns heel, WWE-style, and just says, “f-off Cleveland, I’m going to Chicago, you all can suck it.” Loses the nice guy image and becomes the unstoppable villain. Comes out to some rock music before every game and just spouts swear words at the fans.

    Maybe I watched too much WWF as a child…

  93. Mine is 1) Orlando 2) Legone:( 3) Phoenix 3) Nuclear winter 4) zombie apocalypse 5) Boston.

  94. @ Mimsy – Maybe it’s fate, we get to exact some revenge against the Suns and possible get even sweeter revenge against our long time nemesis Boston…of course that is looking ahead but a guy can dream right?

  95. @Rich
    Dream away. Dream big. There will be blood…!

    I am very impatient for Monday night.

  96. @Mimsy – Monday sure is taking a long time to get here, kind of feels like Christmas in a way when you’re really excited for something and you know it’s coming up soon but yet it feels like time is just going be extra slow…not cool at all.

  97. I can understand the rationale for wanting the Celtics to reach the finals… I personally cannot stand the thought of them having the chance of winning again…

    Zephid got me thinking, what if it was the NBA and WWE teamed up for a game, at least the announcers would be hilarious. possiblity for the script on Monday Night RAW+ WCF, game 1 Lakers vs Suns


  98. @Mimsy,
    I was referring to the Knicks caproom more than their “mystique” (because Isaiah rubbed out whatever was left of that). I had the impression they could afford two max-ish guys.

  99. Isn’t It obvious people Lebron has been knocked out of the playoffs 2 years In a row and has earned no rings, Kobe has 4 rings and Is 8 games away from earning his 5th title. Add In the fact he played with Injuries all season long, that would have sidelined most players and It’s very apparent that the best player In the world resides In LA? so how Is he not he best player In the League anymore? Lebron Is the future but Kobe hasn’t passed the torch yet. Enough said

  100. 88.

    While that column does address the New York Knicks, not once does Broussard broach the subject of the Nyets.

    Imagine a situation where the Nyets get John Wall with the first pick, trade Devin Harris for some pieces, continue to develop Lopez as a legitimate big man, and the addition of a deep-pocketed owner who does not have an aversion to the luxury tax. Also, don’t forget that the Nyets might be moving to Brooklyn so it is New York without being the Knicks.

    The Knicks are a horrible place for LeBron to go to and I do not think that LeBron will go to Chicago where MJ is king. He wants his own legacy in his own city and it’s something you can’t knock him for.

  101. if the lakers don’t make it, i’d prefer both phoenix or boston to win. i want to see skill and determination triumph over brute strength and athleticism.

  102. sorry for the double post. danny ferry has done a good job of handicapping his team’s flexibility by trading for players with crazy long term contracts or extending players beyond this season. sorry, andy varejao and mo williams can’t be your core players. jamison hasn’t played like one.

    and the owner has deep pockets, but they didn’t buy any draft picks to help fill out the roster.

  103. Lebron’s Heart: Cleveland

    Lebron’s Ego: New York

    Lebron’s Trophy Case: Chicago

    (Because this is a family-friendly site, I don’t think I should mention the part of Lebron that wants to go to Miami).

  104. Good point, both Needle and Bynumite. I’ve been too busy reading Boston reactions to the win to pay it any thought, but you’re right The Knicks do have money this year, and the Nets are not nearly as tainted by a disastrous past as then Knicks are. Also, the Nets have a new owner who is infamous for his deep pockets.

    It’s a safe assumption it’s smaller than his ego though, right? 🙂

  105. I was browsing “Fear The Sword” and “Blog A Bull” out of boredom. One thing I will say: I’m glad FBG does not have their commenting system.

  106. Lebron’s Libido: Miami

  107. I just want to point out that Lebron grabbing triple doubles all season may have sucked the potential out of the rest of his team. I wonder if it’s possible to be so dominant that you shadow the skills of your teammates, leaving them ineffective when it counts.

  108. Can someone copy and paste my new York song from 2 days ago? I’m on my iPhone. Thx!!!!!

  109. Bobji, that wrestling thing really played out loud in my head as I read it. Awesomeness.

    I seriously hope that LBJ stays in Cleveland. I hate the media hyping him, and I don’t like how he turned out thanks to the media, but he is definitely a loyal and likable guy, although not quite grown up yet.

    This could be finally his turning point where he realizes that there are shortcomings in his game, especially compared to Kobe. Kobe can resort to a myriad of other offensive moves even with injury and age, LeBron couldn’t, despite his supposedly better vision and passing. This loss, and the media’s ‘betrayal’ of King James could turn him into something that we’ve never witnessed before – a superior talent with superior skills.

    Maybe he’ll become that if he just meets a coach that can stand up to him… but the onus is on him to be willing to learn now.

    Anyway, this was a good day. I mean, Monday is a long way from coming, but I didn’t really need to fill it with the media fawning over LeBron. It won’t be any better with the bandwagon switching to Kobe ‘Four Ring’ Bryant, but it will probably lift Kobe’s spirit some (Timmy and Shaq, who were in contention for their 5th, have been eliminated. Trust me, I think that’s a huge kicker for Kobe now).

  110. Ray, ask and you shall receive:

    Sang to Frank Sinatra’s New York New York:

    Start spreading the news…
    Lebrons last home game was today….
    He wants to be a part of it

    His Nike Shoes
    They are longing to stray
    Right through to Madison Square Garden
    New York New York

    He wants to wake up in that city
    That doesn’t sleep
    And find He’s KING OF THE HILL
    Top of the heap.

  111. I rooted against the Cavs for many of the reasons listed above (hype fatigue, home court, rival busting), plus this:

    The Cavs w Lebron along with ORL are the two teams with a chance to be dominant for the next 3 years during the Lakers’ window. The Celtics are a waning force and their window shuts after this year. The Cavs’ losing makes it more likely than not that the Cavs will be blown up and Lebron will flee to another team that will take years to gel.

    Now that that’s out of the way, I can return to wishing humiliating defeat for the Celts, because a loss will not blow up Orlando.

  112. Lmao Bobji FTW in #97. That was awesome.

    Wow, I had thought all along Lebron was most likely to stay in Cleveland, but I was expecting a trip to the Finals. This changes everything, now I have a hard time seeing him come back.

    107 – I don’t think it was Lebron with the triple-doubles that stunted his teammates, but I don’t think it’s too far off. My theory: What if the hype and fervor surrounding Lebron backfired on him? By that, I meant his teammates become admirers and syncophants more than hard-nosed teammates. I noticed this especially when watching Shaquille this year, how diminished and deferential he seemed. Even when he shoved Kendrick Perkins, he sort of slouched in the opposite direction instead of directly confronting him like the old Shaq would have done. I think there’s so much hype around Lebron that his teammates play in awe of him. When he plays well, they’re inspired to play well too. But when he struggles, it’s like their savior is human and they lose all confidence in their ability to succeed.

    That team just doesn’t have a strong mental makeup. I think it’s a delicate balance. You don’t want a loud-mouth to upset the chemistry, but you need someone (say, like a Udonis Haslem) who draws his strength from someone other than the superstar.

    Funny, these comments about deferential teammates reminds me of what people used to say about Kobe’s teammates. Until Fish came back, most were afraid to deny Kobe the ball to run the system.

    For me, this summer got a lot more interesting. The Bulls organization is so inept I almost don’t want them to succeed, but the team is intriguing and Chicago fans are incredible (e.g. Cubs fans or Bulls sellouts post-MJ). Lebron in Chicago is intriguing.

  113. 92 Zephid:
    You know what would be the most awesome thing in the world?

    If Lebron James turns heel, WWE-style, and just says, “f-off Cleveland, I’m going to Chicago, you all can suck it.” Loses the nice guy image and becomes the unstoppable villain. Comes out to some rock music before every game and just spouts swear words at the fans.

    Maybe I watched too much WWF as a child…

    This is about the only thing that can make me go from despising LBJ to warshipping him! Great stuff… for me it was WCW vs. NWO while growing up. Hollywood Hulk all day!

    BTW: my list goes 1) Orlando 2) 1000 Chipmunk remixes of pop songs 3)Phoenix 4) zombie apocolypse (as long as I get a shotgun) 5) Bos… I can’t type it! you know what I’m tryin’ to say though.

  114. Men, I routed for Celtics, but now that they have won the series, am feeling low, like sad for LBJ. The only two things that will make me feel better is for the Lakers to win championship or to find out that LBJ is not disappointed. I don know, may be those beast faces of Celtics are reminding me of something am trying to forget.

  115. I’d have to choose Phoenix over Orlando because if Orlando won they would surely say, “And we would have won last year too if Jameer was healthy!”

  116. 115 – eh, 4-1 series win with 2 blowouts and 2 games left to be played at Staples > healthy Jameer Nelson.

    And, Orlando’s fanbase is pretty classy, esp compared to some others I’ll not name.

  117. #112 Snoopy, I think you’d have to add the coach to that list of deferential people. Doesn’t seem like Brown holds LeBron to any accountability either.

    I think that’s where you see Phil’s ability shine through. He’s always pushed the role players and stars. When you have mega superstars at the level of Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, it’s beyond just x’s and o’s. It’s managing the ego’s and role players to perform despite the attention the stars naturally command.

  118. Ok, I’ve had the night to luxuriate in the humiliating defeat for the media talking heads. Shaq probably loses his chance for a 5th ring in his career.

    Now it is time to look ahead.

    Back to the theme of this thread. I think Sasha will be noticed in this round. His size and athleticism are needed against the Suns.

  119. I think the biggest issue with LeBron is that basketball isn’t his number one priority. LeBron, Inc. is. I think that affected how he handled playing with a minor injury. Intense, driven players use that as additional motivation. I don’t see that from him.

    The Cavs apparently don’t have an offensive system at all to fall back on when LeBron is having a bad game. I’m curious how much of that is ineptitude on the part of the coaches, and how much is due either to unwillingness on LeBron’s part, or unwillingness on the coaches’ part to ask him to play within a system.

    There was an incredibile amount of pressure on the team and him this post-season; they are front-runners, I think, and don’t know how to handle the pressure when you throw in a little adversity.

  120. 112- You make a great point there. It actually reminds me of a Simmons podcast I listened to yesterday (yes, Simmons, guilty as charged :p) where he had a radio announcer as a guest and they had a discussion about how the Cavs take their cue from LeBron.

    It’s like they’re always waiting for him to take the lead and they play exceptionally well when he’s dominant, but when things get rougher they’re always waiting for him to save the day. When I think about it that way, I do sympathize with LeBron a little; he’s carrying hyperinflated expectations laid on him by his Nike “Chosen One” image campaign, fans, and the media and in all honesty he doesn’t really have a number two guy. The closest he had was Shaq, who was too far over the hill to make a difference like he could for D-Wade.

    I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing the Cavs but basically it’s a team of aging vets and role players who were cast as a dominant team because of LeBron. You only need to watch Game 5, where LeBron was a no-show, to realize how bad the Cavs really are without him to create for them.

    I have to agree with Spike Lee, this is pretty much the perfect setup for LeBron to flip off the Cavs and jump to another team.

    A WWE-style heel turn would be awesome. I can see it now: LeBron publicly announces he’s re-signing with the Cavs and has a big, public signing ceremony with Dan Gilbert. They shake hands and smile for the cameras, the very picture of cordiality.

    Then when Gilbert is saying a few words about how great LeBron is, LeBron blindsides him with a steel chair before ripping up the contract and then pulling off his shirt to reveal a Knicks/Bulls/Heat/Clippers jersey. Scene then fades to black while he stands over Gilbert’s prone body with his arms raised while the assembled fans boo him.

  121. Snoopy,

    I don’t disagree with that sentiment, but I also think there’s some legitimacy to my claim. If you have a player who dominate the boards, other players don’t develop the role or skills necessary to function as a rebounder. The same can be said with playmaking and shooting. If you have a player that dominates the system, the system becomes him and not the other way around. With Kobe and the dark age Lakers, the talent was definitely not around him. LeBron definitely doesn’t have that excuse.

  122. exhelodrvr,
    Your two points are excellent, as usual.

    You have to have the drive and determination to be the best at anything. Lebron was anointed the “best” and never really had any hills to climb. When the hill got really steep he didn’t have any experience with how to handle it. Now, that he is Lebron Inc. it will be interesting if he is able to refocus, or he will just fall back on his statistics – like Shaq did.

    Since neither the club, nor the coaching staff was willing to confront Lebron, no real teaching took place. Lebron had to learn everything; mostly on his own. As noted in the previous paragraph, this wasn’t an integral part of Lebron’s being. He learned a lot of tactics, but now it is time to learn the strategy of being a leader.

    If he is smart, he will at least demand a coach who will challenge him and force a system on the team that starts with the team, not with him.

    Phil went to Kobe when he returned to the Lakers and asked him to score more, because of the lack of talent and Kobe’s abilities. Kobe didn’t just take over Phil’s system. That’s the kind of coach Lebron needs – someone who will teach.

  123. Basketball games are always won by teams. Spacing and balance are two key factors on offense. Help and rotation on defense.

    Until Labron fully realizes this and accepts an assigned role as a member of a team, he’ll never win a championship with anyone anywhere.

  124. Hey guys, the morning links are going to be up a little late this morning. I’m getting some video together to help out Darius for the afternoon post. Thanks for the patience.

  125. I don’t really buy the reasons that don’t have to do with basketball – overhyped, deferential teammates, regular season team, mentality, Lebron Inc., etc. I think it’s as simple as the Celtics were a terrible matchup for the Cavs and they played basketball.

    Maybe LeBron was not being aggressive in game 5 – but there’s a reason for that – Celtic defense. Look what happened when he DID try to be aggressive in game 6 – got the ball stripped and forced shots w/o angles. You can’t just go to the hole when you’re defender is sagging 5 ft off you. You need your teammates to create something or you need to hit an outside shot. But the teammates that could create were guarded by the C’s best defenders. And LeBron’s shot was failing him, so he was out of options. I don’t think the lack of an outside shot (which could have just been a few games) really translates to lack of mentality, or lack of character.

    I don’t really even have to say anything about matchup problems on the other side of the ball.

  126. @Craig
    Whatever happens, whether Lebron demands a strong knowledgable coach who will teach rather than just give directions, what happens next is the real tell, and what’s really interesting.

    Any idiot can get knocked out and hang off the ropes with his head spinning, teeth falling out and blood everywhere. The real test of character is what you do when you get back on your feet… how you recover and how or even if you fight back.

    If Lebron takes in all of this and uses it as a learning experience, if the end result is that he becomes stronger, tougher, and finally grows up and matures as a person, then he really will become great, and he can look back and thank the Celtics for forcing him to go through what ultimately made him a better basketball player.

    Or he can become the next Vince Carter.

  127. One thing I was always surprised with Cle’s offensive strategy was why they never put Bron in the low post. Don’t know if it was because he never learned much post moves or what.

    Before Shaq arrived, that team didn’t have a strong low post presence. But you had Z and all the other shooters who would be on the perimeter. Also JJ Hickson and Varejo would be solid cutting to the hoop and receiving passes to finish.

    Bron in the post would overpower or outquick most guys. Either get the foul or find the cutting JJ/Varejo. Or the open shooter in Z or Mo.

    Against Boston, I think he could have wrecked havoc and changed the matchups. Jamison would have done a lot better catching off the move and finishing with the double teams Boston would have been forced to send Bron’s way.

    Even with Shaq on the team, Bron still could have been sent to the post all the other times. If his elbow was really bothering him on the jumper, moving him down low would have solved a lot of things I think.

  128. 120, dude that’s so awesome. I love the idea of him setting up Cleveland’s hopes than bringing them down with a steel chair to the back.

    Also, he should totally sing this song by The Rock

  129. Ric Bucher is at it again. Now he says Bosh in a sign-and-trade to Lakers for Bynum or (he implies) Gasol. He is saying there is locker room unrest. I guess he means Pau complaining about more touches a series or so ago.

    Has this guy ever been right in his predicitions? I don’t think so.

  130. I know it’s been a while since we’ve played a game, but we’re not going to get into wild trade speculation at this point. So, sorry to say that those comments about S&T deals are deleted.

    And Craig is right, a Bucher report doesn’t hold a lot of credibility at this point, so we shouldn’t even entertain that idea at this point. Let’s just wait until the season is over, shall we? You know, the Lakers are still playing. Who cares about who we can add or who we can’t at this point. I’m talking about winning a title with this group. After we see how that turns out, then we can talk about what needs to be done, no?

  131. My bad… no more trade talk. Sorry about that, Darius.

  132. In browsing the blogs this morning a couple of Lebron things popped out – outside of what I have previously mentioned.

    1) He prefers a coach who is more likely to do his bidding (Mike Brown anyone?). This doesn’t argue for Lebron improving, if true.

    2) Lebron’s skills more closely match Magic’s than Kobe’s, Jordan’s, or Shaq’s. If true, this means he would have to severely reduce his ego needs and play with another alpha personality – or find another Kareem (perhaps a Pau Gasol). He also might have to reduce his scoring and limit his closing duties. Since this isn’t likely to happen, he may become his own worst enemy.

    These two points don’t look promising for Lebron being truly playoff successful on any team he joins.

  133. If Lebron ends up leaving, I’ll be really bitter if I’m a Cav fan. After the game 5 debacle, they plain quit at the end of game 6. They were giving up offensive rebounds inside two minutes, then inexplicably did not foul down by 9 with 45secs. I’ve seen teams string together crazy 3s when they’ve got nothing left to lose, and they have shooters and Lebron. Teams foul in that situation in regular season games, not b/c the coach is hoping for a miracle, but just to practice for games like this. Then incredibly Williams dribbled the ball up like they had all the time in the world instead of push for a quick 2 or take the first 3 they had. That’s a beaten team.

    Did Lebron seem oddly subdued to you guys? He’s always very good at firing up his teammates emotionally, and it looked like they were looking for him to do that and he just didn’t.

  134. L.O. needs to shut down channing wayans..uh-um i mean frye.

  135. Ric Bucher? Who? Oh, you mean the guy who stated that Kobe’s chance of returning to the Lakers in ’07-’08 was “0%”?

  136. Did you guys hear what KG’s advice was? First he said he told LBJ to keep his head up, he;s been there before (twolves – enough said). Then, in the press conf, KG started talking about doing whats best for him and his family and also about “loyalty” then he says if he could do it all over he would have left twolves sooner. This is soo true, he could have been a laker!

  137. The delayed morning links are up and include some fast break thoughts of my own. Including some words on Lebron.

  138. After Lamar Odom, I think Dragic + Dudley and probably Amundson are the next best bench players in the series.

    Then it is a toss up between Frye, Barbosa and Farmer.

    Farmer doesn’t fit the Triangle offense but I think in terms of individual talent he’s right there. Probably the best of those three. However, in terms of this series, I would place him below Frye (four Suns bench players) but ahead of Barbosa (his play has dropped off severely this season).