Behind Enemy Lines: FB&G Talks With Valley Of The Suns

Darius Soriano —  May 16, 2010

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Over the past week we’ve tried to give as much insight as we could on the upcoming WCF match up with the Suns.  But, in order to get more of an insider’s perspective I exchanged emails with Michael Schwartz of the excellent Suns blog Valley of the Suns.  Michael was kind enough to answer my questions on topics such as the Suns defense, Steve Nash’s longevity, and who he has winning the series.  When you’re done here, you can go read the answers I provided to his questions over at his site (represent us FB&G’ers well).  Thank you to Michael for taking the time.

Recently, much has been said of the Suns’ improved defense.  I mentioned it myself in my preview of this series of when the Lakers have the ball.  However, some question if the improvement is real or if it’s exaggerated.  What have you seen from the Suns on that side of the ball?  Are they a better defensive team than earlier this year?  Than in years past?

They certainly are better on both counts, but then again that’s not saying much. One of the biggest differences is that Grant Hill (believe it or not) has stepped up as a legitimate wing stopper in these playoffs. Andre Miller didn’t do much when the Suns switched Hill onto him after Miller shredded Richardson in Game 1, and Ginobili was terrible from the field (a combined 4-for-19) in two of the games of the series thanks in large part to Hill. Getting Robin Lopez back should also help a lot. He’s without question the Suns’ best interior defender. He defends the paint and can at least put a body on Bynum/Gasol better than anybody else on this roster. The other big difference is the bench. While Nash and Amare will never be confused with all-world defenders, the bench unit defends very well across the board. It’s kind of the Suns’ defensive lineup. There’s also been an attitude adjustment. From Day 1 Gentry has preached taking pride in defense, and the Suns have bought in. Stoudemire has talked about defense being fun for the first time in his career, and Hill has spoken about how the Suns actually talk about needing to get stops in huddles. That might sound obvious for most teams, but that’s not exactly how a D’Antoni huddle used to go.

It’s been reported that Robin Lopez will make his return in this series.  What are your expectations for him in this series considering he’s coming off an injury and hasn’t played since late March?

Suns people have said it all along, if you’re expecting Robin Lopez to be your savior then you’re in trouble. But he will certainly help. Being that he hasn’t played in a game since March 26 I expect some rust, particularly at the offensive end, but the Suns don’t need him to score. Offense is always a bonus with Lopez. I do expect some of that rustiness to translate into a propensity to pick up quick fouls (a problem for Lopez to being with), but I think he’ll definitely help the Suns on the boards and be one of their better options on the Lakers’ bigs. I do question how many minutes he can play effectively, though.

You asked me if I thought Kobe was still in his prime. That question got me thinking about Nash and his continued strong play after many had expected him to start to decline by this point in his career.  How much longer do you think he can perform at this level?

I really think he can play at a high level like this for two more years, at which time he will be 38. Nash just enjoyed the best season ever for a 35-plus point guard bar none, and aside from a blip in stats during the first half of 2008-09 when Terry Porter slowed things done, he hasn’t slipped from his 2004-10 prime despite turning 36 back in February. What he’s doing is really unprecedented, certainly from a statistical standpoint but also from the fact that he’s the No. 1 guy on a conference finalist at 36 despite having never before reached the Finals. Nothing Nash does surprises me at this point, and I think he can still be this guy for another couple years and possibly still an effective player a few years after that as the transition to the Dragic era begins.

Speaking of Nash, everyone understands that he and Amar’e are what make this team go; they’re the stars and get much of the praise when discussing the Suns’ success.  However, who would you say is the next most important player to the Suns?

Jason Richardson. When he scores 20 or more points, the Suns are 31-4 this season, including 5-0 in the postseason. The reason is because, like you said, you know that Nash and Amar’e will play like stars every night. When the Suns get that third star offensively, they’re just deadly, especially considering they are normally flanked by two more shooters that you can’t leave open. When J-Rich is hitting his threes and very involved in the offense, the Suns’ offense is virtually unstoppable. Another name to keep in mind: Jared Dudley. It doesn’t always show in the box score, but according to advanced stats guru Wayne Winston, the Suns are +95 points in 234 minutes with Dudley in and only +4 in 246 minutes when he’s out. Of course, some of this has to do with the fact that they are terrible with Jarron Collins and he didn’t play much with Dudley, but that’s still a staggering statistic to me.

When I’ve discussed this series, I’ve mentioned that I think the combination of the Lakers big men and Kobe will put enormous stress on the Suns defensive schemes.  Do you agree with this sentiment?  Is there a particular match up that concerns you the most?

I think those guys put enormous stress on anybody’s defensive schemes, and I absolutely agree with that sentiment as it comes to the Suns. Really I’m most concerned about Gasol. Amare and Frye are obviously better on the offensive end, and Amundson might be too small to do a good job on Pau. Then there’s Robin, but we don’t know how many minutes he’ll play or even how effective he’ll be. I’d expect to see some zone principles once in a while as well as some doubling, but unlike in the Portland series when the Suns sometimes just loaded up on Aldridge, you obviously can’t do that against Pau and the Lakers. So yeah, I think defending Pau (and really Bynum and Odom, too) will be a big headache for Phoenix.

On the flip side of that coin, what match up do you have the most confidence in?

I’m confident that the Suns will bait Ron Artest into shooting threes, and you know how that often turns out. What the Suns have done really well defensively in the first two rounds is forcing the players whom they want to shoot the ball to beat them. Against Portland that meant containing Aldridge and Miller but letting bench players and their weaker starters shoot it. Against San Antonio that meant loading up on Ginobili and forcing Jefferson and McDyess to take jumpers. In that same vein I would expect Artest (and really Fisher, too) to get some jump shots. If Artest is feeling it then the Suns are screwed, but I’d certainly rather see that than easy hoops for Pau and Bynum.

Finally, who do you have advancing to the Finals?  And as a bonus, who do you think is coming out of the East?

Well, the easy answer is I think the Orlando Magic will be in the Finals. They’ve steamrolled everybody so far, and I just don’t see any way that Boston is good enough to beat them four times (not that I thought the Celtics would take down the LeBrons either, of course). At the risk of being skewered for  homerism, I’m picking Suns in 6. A lot of the advanced stats favor the Suns (which is why Hollinger and Winston are taking Phoenix in 6 as well), and the Suns are playing as well as anybody in the league right now, and that was without Robin Lopez. They play so well together as a team and have such great chemistry. Then there’s the fact that Nash and Hill know this could be their last chance at a Finals and the fact that teams naturally don’t possess that same killer instinct after winning it the previous year. All that makes me thing the Suns will pull the upset.

Thanks again to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions.  His insight on the Suns will surely help us when looking at the upcoming games in the series.

Darius Soriano

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75 responses to Behind Enemy Lines: FB&G Talks With Valley Of The Suns

  1. the suns winning in 6 would mean 2 wins at the staples center or 4 wins in a row (games 3,4,5,6). im sorry, i just dont see it. not only because the best player is on our side, but because of the experience of our team aswell. it hasnt been mentioned a lot, but a big part of the suns bench has never played in such meaningful games… you cant teach what kobe and fish have from all those big games.

    also, since hollinger is picking the suns, im feeling really comfortable

  2. Hollinger is a ‘stats only’ guy. While I believe his stats do expose things we might not otherwise notice, he still is missing about 50% of the game.

    Yeah, I know, the Lakers usually don’t win decisively and the game often goes down to final shots. The Lakers are prone to take 10-15 minutes off in a game. The Lakers are old and broken down (B.S.). Kobe isn’t close to the player he used to be (according to some statistics).

    The only problem with all these statistics is that the Lakers have been there before and know what to do and how to do it. If there is a better closer in the game I dare you to name him (from watching games, not some statistical analysis that has a limited number of measurement points). Incidentally, games are closed out at times other than the last 3 minutes and Kobe is a master at this.

    This game comes down to 1) the skill of the players and 2) the cohesion of the teams. The Suns have the cohesion, but do they have the players? That’s what this series is all about. We will see, starting tomorrow.

  3. I listened to Michael’s takes on TBJ’s Overload this week. He made some of the same points with the added element that OKC gave the Lakers a real battle despite their youth and that Utah was effected by injuries. I find it interesting that he neglects to mention Portland’s injury issues (Utah had their two best players. Same cannot be said of Portland) and how old and shallow the Spurs are. These arguments cut both ways. Micheal likes Hollinger’s numbers and gives them weight. Others might look at W-L record and head to head record. Michael considers the desperation of Nash and Hill. Others night put more weight on the 3peat track record shown by Kobe, Fish and Phil as indicating a proven hunger rather then a projected one.

    The Lakers will win because their two best players are better then anyone on the Suns and the after Nash and Amare the Lakers have 3 players in the mix for the next best 5 players in the series. The Lakers will win because they have an elite D (w/Bynum) and an offense that has regained it’s efficency since Phil simplified it in as an adjustment in the 1st round. The Lakers will win because chemistry is not all about seeing movies and going to dinner together. Acidic compounds are useful as well. The Lakers were all loving on each other in 2008 and it failed in the last round. Last year, Kobe was all intensity and jutted jaw. That ended pretty well.

    Ok… I’m almost ready. 15 minutes until we get a better idea of which repeat matchup we get in the Finals. Either way, #16 is coming.

  4. Analysis paralysis – let’s get the games going. Let’s talk more about the NBA’s ridiculous scheduling – we are killing the momentum with these delays. In addition, the old-school series scheduling wouldn’t allow for all of this healing – players would have to man-up and play through these injuries.

  5. i wouldnt count the celtics out to make it to the finals. they certainly have the right players to hang with orlando. i think it will come down to nelson vs rondo. after playing against felton and bibby, nelson will finally have to work for once.

    i have my money on the celtics just because of this matchup and because vince will inevitably choke or go down to some fingernail injury.

  6. If the Suns try to bait Artest into shooting a lot of jumpers I hope that he starts posting up on them. He can overpower the Suns defensive options at SF.

  7. celtics defense has been awesome recently

  8. So many turnovers!

    Dwight Howard really, really needs to learn the value of not bringing the ball down low. Pierce had no business stripping that away. If you’re a 7-footer planted 2 feet from the hoop with only a wing player in your way and you can’t score, you have issues.

    I don’t get it. Do his coaches not teach him, or does he just forget in the heat of games? It’s not hard to keep the ball high (like Pau does) and just dunk. I think Howard needs time to dunk; he bends low and gathers himself before rising up, and that really hurts him when smaller players are waiting to strip the ball down low.

  9. Not sure how long it will last, but over the last four games the Celtics have been very good, and very scary looking…

    Yikes.

    Dwight Howard is a defensive BEAST, but offensively he is not as good as Bynum.

  10. I could see the Celtics winning this series simply because Perkins (and Sheed for that matter) can contain Howard without help. Boston has clear matchup advantages at the other 2 frontcourt positions, so if Howard isn’t a major factor offensively the Magic are in trouble.

  11. Isn’t it a bonus for us that Lopez will be back? Maybe we can post this over at the Suns blog. They will play a more traditional half-court with him in the game, playing even more into our hands.

  12. Wow…maybe you should have asked Michael Schwartz if it was difficult to see when he’s wearing rose-colored Suns glasses all the time.

    Good Lord.

    Suns in 6, eh? So the Suns are going to win twice at Staples?

    Hmmm…

    Defensive attitude adjustment, huh?

    The Spurs averaged 101.4 points per game during the season. Against the Suns they averaged…100.3 points per game.

    The Blazers averaged 5 points less then their season average agains the Suns, but that was without their best player.

    The Suns still win games by outscoring people. Nothing has changed in that regard.

    I was slightly amused to hear that the Suns big game plan on D is trying to coax Ron Artest into jacking up threes.

    That’s what you got, huh?

    How’d that work out for Utah?

    Artest kind of figured it out halfway through series and started taking into the paint.

    It was interesting also that he said that Richardson was the 3rd most important player for the Suns. Here is how Richardson did in the four games the Suns played the Lakers:

    5 points
    10 points
    4 points
    16 points

    Look, a part of me is terrified of the Suns, because I feel like they are just as favorable a matchup as Utah was.

    I realize that the Suns are as hot as any team still standing right now, but matchups really do matter, and the Suns only have one (point guard) that goes in their favor.

    Well, that and their bench (and believe me, I realize the Suns bench is MUCH, MUCH better than the Lakers), but it’s really hard to win a series with your bench.

    Especially in 6 games.

    I realize I sound like Snarky McSnarkerson, but the analysis from the Suns’ Blogger is heavy on hope.

  13. Darius, you have been keeping us busy during this loonnngggg break in Laker on-court basketball fun with your posts, good job indeed. No way the Suns win in 6, maybe 7, but not 6. The Laker homer in me says , ‘Lakers in 6′ though, I think that is a reasonably outlook without Bynum in the mix. Huraahhh, tomorrow is some Laker Playoff basketball, I cannot wait…

  14. Redick looks like their savior

  15. Wow, Celtics are looking good. Wheelchair boy had a great shooting game without having to worry about anyone on Orlando being able to guard him.

  16. carter blanchard May 16, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    10, I agree completely; being able to frustrate Dwight that badly (and almost holding the team under 50 through 3 quarters) isn’t something that Stan’s going to be able to adjust for. Maybe it’s time to recognize that as dominant as Dwight is, when faced with similar size capable of keeping space between him and the rim he will have struggles. I know there’s a lot of basketball left on both coasts, but feeling pretty good an ’08 rematch coming.

    Which means, tomorrow let the Kobe Revenge Tour of ’10 begin! In the next few weeks, all the basketball wrongs of the last half-decade could be avenged.

  17. I’m sorry, Darius,

    but I need to interject that today I was reminded how much I detest the Celtics.

    Ray

  18. let’s see that show of hands for those that really, really want to play the Celtics again. they’re looking pretty smart now for all that rest they gave their *old guys* during the season.

  19. … called it ;)

    i really hate the celtics to death, but they did a good job in this game and earned me a couple of bucks aswell ;). i guess its ok to root for them as long as they are not playing our boys and bring some bucks ;)

  20. #17, i know… but all i am saying is that if i were CLE and LBJ asked for a sign and trade, i would be hard pressed look at the best teams in the league and try to trade for the pieces on those teams. Salaries should match up closely, and as far as i know, it was still OK to dream freely. Let the imagination roam free.

  21. Wow, now that Orlando lost, I’m worried about our game 1 against the suns.

  22. Look, the Lakers are justifiably favored in this series, but that doesn’t mean the Suns don’t pose some problems. Plus I really hate those position, by position comparisons as a way to justify a dominant win. It is always how a team plays as a group that dictates success – see the Celtics today against the Magic.

    Not only does all the ‘much better’ talk sound disrespectful, but it reminds me of whistling past the graveyard.

  23. I want the Lakers to beat the Suns in 5 or less.

    And then I would like Boston in the finals.

    This is simply juicy.

  24. harold, dont worry. orlando lost because they´ve been playing against inferior teams and had a long break. teams that rely on the 3pt shot are always having troubles after a long time off, because the rythm is gone. so please, enjoy the game tomorrow. everything can happen in basketball, but the odds favor our guys big time

  25. It’s going to be a Lakers/Celtics rematch. And the more I watch these revitalized Celtics, the more I want that rematch. So book it.

    Orlando has the depth but not the toughness or craftiness to defeat Boston. The Suns have the speed and the PG but the matchups simply do not favor them and the Lakers D>>>The Suns O.

    I really don’t see Phoenix taking a single game from L.A. at Staples Center.

  26. Iesha, no that’s not correct. If the Suns at least split in LA during the first 2 games, they don’t have to win another at Staples if they take care of Home Court. This is how I see it playing out. Suns winning games 1, 3, 4 & 6.

    GO SUNS!

  27. #12. Burgundy,
    I think Michael was being quite fair in his assessment. That doesn’t mean I agree, though. No one needs to belittle his opinion or make it seem like he’s a homer. He’s right in that if Richardson stays hot, the Suns successfully get players besides Kobe and Pau to be bigger participants in the offense, and if the Suns bench can continue their strong run that the Suns have a very good shot at winning. We’re fans of the other side, so I think it’s also fair to say that we see it different. So, um, yeah I don’t think the snark is needed.

    #20. Blow,
    Read the commenting guidelines. We’re not going to get into trade speculation at this site. Feel free to dream, but if you post those comments here they’ll get deleted as will the responses. Also, what’s the point of talking trades now? The Lakers are in the WCF and it’s going to be this team – in its current state – that is going to compete for the right to play in the Finals and then (hopefully) have a chance to win another title. Trades are for the off-season and in the ramp up to the trade deadline, not in the middle of May when our guys are still playing.

  28. I was expecting to hear it, and I finally did. Van Gundy has called the Celtics the favorites.

  29. Is anyone having the following ambivalent thoughts?….

    on the one hand, I want the Magic in the FInals. We know how to beat them because we did it last year, and they don’t match up with us very well (Nelson helps, so he would get his, but it won’t matter because we can contain Howard with our Skyscraper big men and Artest the Guard Dawg on Carter) and are too soft on defense and their coach is relatively soft.
    I also am afraid of the Celtics and the way they’re playing and gelling right now. They don’t look like the same team that only won 50 games and went like 26-26 after that 23-5 start. Right now they look a lot like the ’08 champions that rallied against us and stonewalled us and pushed us around pretty good in that painful finals.

    I think in the end I want the Magic so we can have another championship, because I couldn’t handle another loss to the Celtics, even though it would be eminently less gratifying.

    What y’all think?

  30. Yes, let the Kobe Revenge Tour begin. Seriously, Kobe must be licking his chops to get a chance to avenge the Suns and Celtics franchises that gave him grief for the past 5 years.

    You can’t script it any better.

    First off, the Suns will be fortunate to win 2 games. This is not a team that scares me. Sure they’re playing great, but they have to hit on all cylinders to pull away from the Lakers — easy baskets, open 3s, etc. Otherwise, we’re going to have Laker blowouts or close games; and if it’s close, who on the Suns scares you? Nash? Amar’e pick n’ roll? The Suns are a big body and a finesse forward away — yes two players — from competing against the Lakers.

    I live in Boston, and the Celtics are starting to get that mojo working. They’re looking awfully good on D right now, similar to ’08, and Ray Allen has found another gear. I think they win in 6 games against Orlando.

    Which would set up a rematch for the ages, with the Lakers having the 2-3-2 home-court. Come on Boston, bring your big bad selves here — Kobe has a little something for you!

  31. 29 – No doubt, I think that’s how a lot of us feel right now. The Celts look fearsome right now and Bynum is hobbled. We want revenge, but do we really want to face the option of losing? Some Lakers fans are fearless and will never think we’ll lose until we actually do, and others are more cautious and timid. I guess it depends on your personality as a fan. Me? I’m not worried, but I think we have to realize this isn’t the .500 club we saw earlier in the year.

  32. Do these advances stats take into account the Lakers were playing without Bynum for the last month of the regular season and also mainly without Kobe as well because of injuries? Do they take into account match ups? Do they take into account home court advantage? I think advanced stats are good when grading regular season performances by teams… but in no way is it a good tool for predicting playoff outcomes. Because if the stats had the Lakers beating OKC in the first round but Kobe and Bynum were in street clothes I probably would bet on the Thunder. I am confused how educated men can pick a series based strongly on regular season stats. I don’t even base my predictions on regular season records. I bet based on match ups and home court advantage… hence why I picked the Spurs over the Mavs, the Celtics over the Cavs, and would have picked the Magic over the Cavs. How a team matched up with 29 teams in the regular season has very little to do with how a team matches up with one team for 7 games.

    And the Magic will still win this series if they put Howard onto KG. The Celtics would then have no offensive low post presence just as the Magic have none (if you have a meaty guy to put on Howard he can’t score).

  33. Aaron – Do you even watch the games? Garnett did virtually nothing today offensively and the Celtics still dominated for most of the way. 4-14, and his impact on the game felt even less. Obviously Howard on Garnett will help, but the Celtics showed today that even with “no [effective] offensive low post presence” they’re still very capable of dominating. KG was not the difference in today’s game.

  34. Looks like the Sun is getting real hot in the desert.

    Richardson is really good when left open to shoot. I am sure Phil knows that and puts Ron on him. Not good for Rich.

    also means Kobe on Hill and not good for him.

    I see no one stopping Kobe or Pau. They will have double on them which means lots of open shots.

    Lakers are not a care unit Blazer team or a too old to play 3 series Spurs team.

    One of my companies is in Az so I have the kitchen sink on this series. I am 100% sure barring new injuries that we beat the setting Suns with or without help from Andrew.

    You can take that to the bank! Bring on the mean green machine!

  35. true that. Today it was Rondo, Allen, and Perkins’ d. Just there D in general was really solid and stifling for the first 3 and a half quarters. I know its cliche, but defense wins championships…which is why I feel we’re actually stronger this year than last year. And the boatload of playoff and Finals experience on our team now doesn’t hurt either. Someone or something will have to pull a Tonya Harding on our bigs and Kobe for us to lose to the suns and then Orlando. But again, the Celtics are a scary match. BTW I pick Boston in 6. I think most would agree we’re headed for an ’08 Finals rematch! And the ratings would be better of course than if we face the Magic again.

    (Sorry big D – I know you like to stay focused on the present but I just can’t help myself!) -Seth

  36. The prospect of losing yet another Final series against Boston is simply terrifying. Not that I don’t have confidence in our team, but this is just a scenario where you either win big or lose big.

    Orlando, on the other hand, even if we do lose, it’s going to be nothing compared to a loss induced by the Celtics. Besides, who on Orlando’s roster will annoy you to no end if he’s labeled the ‘best player?’ Nobody on their roster will get that kind of a rep even if they won, where as if the Celtics win, we’ll be in for a long line of articles about veteran-ness, ubuntu, and who knows what else.

    But, of course, winning against Orlando will be nothing compared to avenging our loss, especially if we can somehow duplicate that whopping in one of the games, and a fierce comeback win in another. That would rank among the all time best in terms of catharsis and revenge factor. Up there, way up there.

    Still, we have to get past the Suns. If we can chase their 3 point shooters like Boston did to Orlando, we should be fine. And PHX is also due a couple bad shooting nights, just like Orlando was.

    Besides, even if they are dangerous, 4-0 isn’t all that boastful. Look what happened in Utah. They were good, and actually close to taking a couple games, but the result is 4-0. I suspect that this could be a tightly fought series, but somehow gets decided in 5 games.

  37. I think some of the Suns fans may be suffering from the same ailment that hit Lakers fans two years ago. The Suns finally beat the Spurs. Not only did they beat them, they swept them. As a result many Suns fans feel their team in invincible. They just let out a huge exhale after beating the Spurs and, I think, are still seeing the Spurs when they look at the Lakers. I mean, to call the Suns in six at this point requires a lot of confidence.

    Remember when the Lakers took down the defending champ Spurs in five games back in 2008? Many Laker fans felt the title was inevitable after that. Sure they still had to beat the C’s, but they had just beat the defending champs thoroughly. Then we found out something. The Celtics were not the Spurs. That five game rout of San Antonio meant nothing when LA got to the Finals.

    Similarly, the Suns need realize the Lakers are not the Spurs. I cringe when I read other Laker fans thinking LA will sweep the Suns or take them down in five games. But to read someone saying the Suns will take out the defending champ, Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol/Phil Jackson led Lakers is six games I just shake my head.

    The Suns are playing great ball right now. However, their fans may be overvaluing that sweep of the Spurs.

  38. what is it with all these so-called laker fans not wanting the celtics? This could be LAKERS VS CELTICS!!!!! only the greatest rivalry in the NBA. Man-up people, this could be a battle for the ages. If the lakers win the trophy by beating the hated C’s I predict this will be kobe’s reaction when holding the trophy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWDROlOG3-s

    But lets beat the suns first…

  39. I’m not going to say I’m not worried about the suns, but I’m confident the lakers will beat them in 5 or 6 games.

    The suns are a hot team, an the media always picks the hot team (I.e. lakers 08 finals). But something that somewhat pissed me off was the espn interviews discussing how the suns are a veteran team because of hills and Nash’s veteran savyness. Did everybody forget the lakers are the defending champs and the core has been to 2 straight NBA finals. Nash, barbosa, and amare have the most playoffs experience and I’m not mistaken went to only 1 conference finals, maybe 2. This is j rich’s second postseason. Then their bench Dudley, amundson, dragic, and frye haven’t been past the first round until now. Th lakers just have to many advantages over this team.

    The lakers have a defensive advantage, best player in the world advantage, other match up advantages, home court advantage, advantage in post season experience. Not to mention the lakers are just the better team.

    The suns are a great offensive team with one play that the lakers will have a hard time
    stopping. They are an improved defensive team, but does that matter if the lakers still have 4 player that the suns cannot stop.

    I’m hoping for Boston because I think it will be a tougher matchup for the lakers, which means a better and more competitive series. And of
    course lakers can get their redemption.

  40. Just finished watching the 1st half of the Celtics win and I’m hearing a lot of talk about the great defense but I’m not seeing it. I’m placing more of the problem on horrible Orlando offense. They’re not running anything worthwile. Lots of iso plays, badly run pick and rolls and off balance jumpers. Boston’s D really isn’t being taxed too much by the ineptness of Orlando’s execution.

    Maybe the 4th quarter comeback will show me something different and see how good the Boston D really is.

  41. Lakers will handle the Celtics if they do meet in the Finals. It was freaking Vlad on Pierce in 2008. Did you guys watch the games this year? Ron Artest will man handle Pierce. And Gasol sure will seek redemption against Garnett and his big mouth. As long as Bynum can play some defense, Lakers will win. It’s not like Perkins can do much on offense anyway. I’m sure Odom will handle that washed up tech maniac that is Rasheed Wallace.

  42. Boston’s defense is looking pretty good, but Orlando’s offense was horrible today. Why oh why is Dwight Howard still without a true post up game? It handicaps his team in so many ways.

    And I agree about people being scared of the C’s. Forget that! The Lakers are defending champs. If the C’s get past Orlando (and LA gets past the Suns) then bring it on! The fact that Artest would be picking up Pierce instead of Vlad this time around makes a HUGE difference. But I am getting ahead of myself. To me, taking down the Suns and Celts in one playoff run is the BEST way for LA to defend its crown.

  43. i can’t wait to see artest knock pierce out of his wheel chair if they do meet

  44. after reading all the comments today. Only one thing is certain: There is too long a gap since the last game. We are all just anxious and speculating on everything. Lets play the games already!!

  45. work tomorrow needs to not exist (well, most every day, but esp tomorrow so the game can come on sooner)

  46. Players these days just don’t want to invest time to improve their games anymore. Kobe went to olajuwan to improve his post game even AFTER he won a ring. But the “king” and D. Howard just didn’t think they needed to develop their post game after last season. You wonder why some players don’t win championships…

  47. Q,

    are you sure that lebron or D. howard didnt work on their games at all? do you have that on good authority? because unless you do, then you’re just speculating from what you’re seeing on the floor this year. i doubt you are comparing them from last year. we as laker fans have the advantage of seeing all the kobe highlights of working with the dream. do we see what Pau did? no, but we assume he worked on his game somewhat.

  48. Q – Don’t mean any disrespect, but man, you are a homer. Are you sure that your real name is not Vic The Brick?

  49. After last year and the criticism over the last couple of years I am very surprised D. Howard seemingly hasn’t worked on his post moves. If he has, then he doesn’t trust himself when things get tough – that’s just as much a problem as not having worked at all.

    The last two series weren’t much of a test for Orlando and Dwight should have just dominated, but didn’t. Now, when he needs it, he is rusty??

    I think the next game will say everything we need to know about this player. He either steps up his game or we should stop talking about him being the best center in the league. This is put up or shut up time for Dwight Howard.

  50. who’s vic the brick? hey man, i can’t be a Lakers homer on a Lakers fan site?? haha…fine, my name is Ron the Brick! no that’s no homer!

  51. Vic the Brick is a local Los Angeles radio personality – hard to take, unless you like him. Sometimes you see him on tv in the dressing room interviewing players. He is always wearing wierd robes and a purple hat in the Lakers locker room.

  52. Currently, the four best (or most valuable/skilled/dominant/whatever) players in the NBA are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Dwight Howard – in some order. Sorry Kevin, maybe next year?

    As it stands right now, the Celtics have a very real chance of facing – and downing – all four of them. Granted, I’m probably getting ahead of myself whilst making a useless point, but hey, all in good fun, no?

  53. Well, have you guys watched Howard and LeBron? They have the same strengths and weaknesses as last year. Watching the games, nothing pops out at you and makes you think, “Oh wow, he really worked on that.”

    They are both players that can reign supreme even without “extra” work because they are so damn athletic. By the way, LeBron was criticized by “fans” for promoting his movie during Summer while Kobe was working on his post game with The Dream.

    This year, LeBron’s 3P% and FT% both went down. Arguably, free throws are the easiest facet of the game that a player can improve, unless you are Shaq. As for Dwight Howard, statistically, he is the same player as last year.

    Yes, I know, stats aren’t everything, and I agree. SO, by watching, do you see any improvements from those two players? Personally, Dwight Howard still looks inept in the offensive post, though he did manage to hit a 3-pointer during the All-Star Game. LeBron still maintained his power dunks and dribble-drive.

    And Kobe has been’s improved post game has been mentioned by at least every single announcer. Not only that, we can SEE the improvements he made. How many times when you see Kobe do some crazy footwork in the post, you know it had something to do with his workouts with Hakeem?

    — Oh…… so that’s who Vic the Brick is. I always thought he was just a homeless that was let in the locker room because of his crazy attire.

  54. Simonoid sounds like a fan of Bill Simmons or himself

  55. Big fan of myself, LOL. Don’t read BS, though.

  56. 54 – …Or a guy named Simon…who changed his name a bit when another Simon showed up…but no, that’d be too obvious…

    (let’s see if my FB&G history skills are up to par)

  57. Wow, I can’t believe you remembered that. Major props, snoops.

    On a sidenote, the Lakers are amazing at closing out on the road. Between Nuggets & Magic last year and Thunder & Jazz this year, there has really been only one close game (in OKC). I’ve read all about the 8-1 or something of the sort in the last few elimination games, but it’s worth pointing out that half of those are on the road – most of which are blowouts. Then again, I’m sure many will point to Game 6 in Houston last year.

    All in all though, this is as good a closeout team as any in the league in the last few years – comparable to the Pistons from 2004 through 2007, and maybe back the three-peat earlier in the decade. That’s a lot of veteran character for a (relatively) young playoff champion.

  58. Also in the meantime, LeBron & Calipari is reminding me of Kobe & Krzyzewski back in the day. I’m thinking only Cleveland and Chicago are willing to forfeit that much power to two guys while undermining the GM and owner. Can’t see Prokhorov ceding that much control (even with Jay-Z to reel James in), and well, let’s not even start with Donald Sterling.

  59. Craig and J M
    Vic is actually odd but harmless. Grew up in New York about 55 years ago. Had a rep as a pretty good street player. Started in Texas radio and TV out of Austin. His sig call was throwing a brick on the set when he didn’t agree with something. Hence Vic the Brick. real name is Victor Jacobs.

    Has been with 570 radio for about 7 years and was partnered up with Steve Hartman(CBS and KCAL) and Mike Thompson the ex-Laker who is now with 710 in the day and Laker Radio.

    He is a very crazy Laker fan and a lover of Kobe. In real life actually a nice guy but the outfits like his Laker Poncho do scare people. Lived up in Whittier for quite some time and the hair is real! Have talked with him many times over the years.

  60. Nineteen hours to go folks, and we need a game bad it seems like. Yeah, you can be a Laker homer on this site, I sure am, no doubt about it at all…

    GO LAKERS…

  61. As much as I am a Kobe fan, LeBron did improve every year. His stats show only one aspect of it – his increased field goal percentage. His fg% is over 50% this year, and if my memory is correct, his average trips to the FT line increased as well.

    His 3pt% has also increased from his rookie year, and I honestly believe his defense has improved as well. Give him credit where it’s due, LeBron does work on his game, although probably not the ‘degree’ that Kobe works on.

    Dwight, on the other hand, I’m not so sure. He certainly works on improving his physique (or maintaining it), that much you can tell simply by looking at him. He may be working on some other aspects as well, but not everyone can learn something and use it the very next season. Kobe is special in that regard, but we Laker fans sometimes think that’s a given.

  62. #53 – LeBron has improved something every year, as has Dwight. I’m not their biggest fans but they both work damn hard. They both have a long way to go to being complete players, but if they become complete players then they’ll be the best at their respective positions we have seen.

    Back to the series, I also believe that Lopez coming back is a possible win for the Lakers. I think Frye causes some problems for Gasol and Bynum who are not the fastest closers. Their bench is also a worry. But ultimately I think that Phil’s coaching is likely to be what gets the Lakers over the edge. Lakers in five or Suns in 7 seem like the most likely options.

  63. swedishmeatballs May 17, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Kobes knee making noise again. Crap.

  64. boris,
    Please enlighten us as to what Lebron and Dwight have improved/changed about their game in the last year. This is an honest question, not a sarcastic comment, as I haven’t spent nearly as much time watching their games as I have the Laker games.

  65. Actually, if the Lakers were up 3-2 heading into Game 6 in Phoenix, I don’t see the Suns forcing a 7th game. See #57.

  66. In reference to Dwight Howard and LeBron’s off-season improvement and work ethic, I find that they probably did do work in the gym and so forth.

    I wouldn’t question that.

    That’s what separates them from Shaq(in terms of work ethic and physique at times).

    I think people(and I) wonder how hard is it to implement/improve on post moves. How hard is it to trust those moves as part of an arsenal or go-to move?

    Reminds me of how Bynum doesn’t do the sky hook because of similar issues.

    The shot isn’t difficult, he has to trust himself.

    They have to trust themselves.

    But from the outside it looks like the two don’t have game down low or it’s just taking forever.

    That’s what it probably seems like.

    Lakers win in 6. Win by a rough 10 tonight due to rust.

    Bye.

  67. Suns in 6 means the Suns only have to win 1 game in LA.:
    Game 1(LA) Suns win (1-0 suns)
    Game 2(LA) LA wins (1-1)
    Game 3&4(Phx) Suns win (3-1 suns)
    Game 5(LA) LA wins (3-2 suns)
    Game 6(Phx) Suns win series in 6 (4-2)

    Suns Fan here, series will be close.

  68. I am looking forward to watching the 1st game tonight, then I might (might) make some predictions. My guess is that most of our attitudes toward the Orlando-Boston series are very different Monday AM, as opposed to Sunday AM.

  69. For all the grief that Bynum gets, it’s hard to deny how he’s shown noticeable improvement in his game every single year. Offensively his game has grown immensely. Even defensively Phil has given him credit this year.

    I think that speaks a lot about his commitment, passion and aptitude for the game.

  70. @63

    I think Kobe wisely chose not to speak to media yesterday because no one outside the organization really needs to know how he’s doing (i.e., the Suns). I think he’ll be fine. Bynum could have learned a lesson from #24. What the hec is doing, whining about his knee getting worse? Sometimes I wonder if certain players make a big deal about injuries so they can be used as excuses for poor performance.

    @59, ken

    Is there anyone you don’t know? :)

  71. Jane,
    Was Bynum whining? When players don’t take the uber macho road to injury we tend to use the word whine. Hey, Andrew has a low threshold of pain and heals slowly – that is as much a physical trait as it is a mental trait. Magic was out periodically because he had a low threshold of pain.

    I do think Andrew is somewhat injury prone, but I wonder how many true 7′ back-to-the-back centers don’t have physical problems. Recently Dwight Howard. In the past Kareem (he, however was a relatively slight build -relatively – and was fanatically far sighted about his physical conditioning) and Wilt Chamberlain.

    Reed – famous for his finals injury
    Shaq – obvious
    Yao – obvious

    Think of the durable centers – most are all under 7′ and more athletic than massive.

  72. Simmons is on the Colin Coherd show and he is really exposing his anti-Laker bias. He rates Derrick Rose above Pau Gasol without even a wink of the eye. Says Pau was soft in the 2008 finals against the Celtics.

    I say we absolutely ban anyone on this blog who quotes Simmons as an authority on anything basketball. You just think Abbott is biased – Simmons gives new meaning to the word.

  73. Darius – You’re right. I retract my snark. The Suns blogger did make well reasoned points, and he wasn’t attacking anyone (and therefore, didn’t deserve to be attacked).

    I just hope I didn’t jinx the Lakers by being so overconfident…

  74. Snoopy,
    I did watch the game… and sorry… I know I am alone on this but I don’t let one game effect my judgments as i have said a thousand times on this site. I still think Orlando will win this series if Howard is put on KG.

  75. #64 – LeBron added a minor post game (granted, not enough confidence to use it in the playoffs, but he did at times through the year) and improved outside shooting. Dwight greatly reduced his fouling around the basket with increased body control, went from a terrible to average and sometimes above-average passer, and developed his post game significantly ( I think Arnovitz said that no-one made more hook shots from the left block last year than DH). Their coaches all note the amount they work on their game, so I didn’t agree with the comment about them being the same players as last year. They just have bigger and more noticeable gaps than someone like a Kobe who has had years of working out his flaws.