First Impressions

Darius Soriano —  October 27, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) celebrates during their win against the Houston Rockets during the second half of their NBA game in Los Angeles, California October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

With Kobe on the bench, the Lakers' reserves really stepped up.

It’s said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  It seems that the Lakers bench took that saying to heart as they showed up big in their first regular season game.  By turning the tide in the third quarter and then riding that wave of energy and emotion to take the lead in the final frame, the bench showed that they’re up to the task that they’ll face countless times in this marathon of an NBA regular season.

But, even though there are mostly all positive take aways from the game, there were some things that I saw last night that I’ll be looking out for when the bench gets their burn in the upcoming games.  Not negative things, mind you, just some things that could be tweaked; things that as the season progresses could be improved upon.  The first thing that I’ll be watching for is Steve Blake striking the needed balance between floor general and offensive threat.

Last night, Steve Blake was one of the heroes.  His two three pointers at the end of the third period cut a double digit Houston lead to a manageable five points and gave the Lakers momentum heading into the fourth quarter.  He then closed the contest with another made three and a defensive stop that clinched the game.  Down the stretch, Blake was fantastic and without his efforts the Lakers surely would have started out the season with a loss. 

However, earlier in the game, I thought Blake was a bit too passive.  I understand that one of his biggest strengths – and a trait that is a welcome sight after seeing some of the erratic play of his predecessor that now plays in the swamps of Jersey –  is how poised, seasoned, and natural a point guard Blake is.  During the preseason, I consistently praised Blake for his dedication to running the Lakers sets; for his ability to organize the team in a manner that produced success on offense.  And last night, true to form, Blake again showed his patience and poise by consistently moving the ball on to a teammate in hopes of sparking the Lakers’ struggling offense.  But, that dedication to make the extra pass came at the cost of Blake’s own ability to impact the game by scoring the ball.  On several occasions, he made the fundamental play to move the ball on but in some of those instances he just as easily could have taken the shot because he was just as open as the man that he was passing the ball to. 

Believe me, no one enjoys seeing the Triangle run well more than me.  But there are times where Blake will need to shoot the ball – even when he’s not as open – in order to find the right balance.  This may be somewhat against his nature, but he’s too good a shooter to continue to pass if he’s just as open (or even moreso) than the players he’s moving the ball to.  A perfect example of when he broke out of his passing mindset was on his second three pointer at the end of the 3rd quarter.  On that play, Blake received a pass in the corner and Matt Barnes approached to set a screen for him.  At the instant the screener arrived, Blake’s man shifted his defensive stance to guard against the pick and gave Blake that wee bit of daylight needed to get his shot off.  Blake fired away, made the shot, and cut the deficit to 5.  Earlier in the game, Blake would have accepted the screen and played out the action that’s (surely) been drilled countless times in practice.  And while that would have been completely acceptable, it likely wouldn’t have yielded the same results.

In a way, I’d like to see Blake be just a bit more like Fisher.  I know that one of the major complaints that many have had with Derek is his almost over-willingness to take shots.  As one of the lower efficiency players on the team the past few seasons, Fisher’s propensity to fire up a shot early in the clock or when only slightly open can be frustrating at times.  But, that same willingness to step up and take the shot is what allows Fisher to be a functional player in the offense (regardless of whether the shot goes in or not).  Fisher deploys himself as a threat in the Triangle by shooting when the opportunity is there.  This is a lesson learned at the footstool of Tex Winter and Phil Jackson; the lesson saying that penetration can come off the dribble, the pass, or a shot.  Blake doesn’t have the benefit of being tutored by Tex, but he does have Jackson, Fisher, and Kobe in his ear and over time he’ll learn these same lessons.   

And I do expect Blake to learn and grow within the offense.  The second half last night showed what Blake is capable of within the offense.  When Kobe drove off that P&R and whipped the pass that led to Blake’s virtual game winner, we saw the trust that already exists between Kobe and his new teammate.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be looking for this trust to expand beyond what Blake’s teammates show in him, but in the trust that he shows in himself.  And, I do think that time will come soon with the result being a better balance of when to be passer and when his shooting/scoring is needed.  He’s too smart a player for it not to.

Darius Soriano

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  1. Lakers were just tuurrible last night. Houston played the best they’re capable of against the Lakers.

    But as Stu Jackson always says, good teams find ways to win, bad teams find ways to lose. Houston’s just not that good. They have good horses. They just don’t have good riders (not referring to Adelman).

    They shot the lights out in the first half. They’ll never do that again against the Lakers (???). But look what happened in the second. They fell in love with outside jumpers and constantly settled. Aaron Brookes is nothing more than a tall Earl Boykins. A great player to have in a pick up game as he’ll score from anywhere and he had 9 assists… yet, I just didn’t see him getting his team involved. Those 9 assists aren’t like Chris Paul’s or Steve Nash’s, where the PG sets up his player. Those are just passes before the score assists. I don’t like to nitpick, but watch the game again. He’s a score first PG. Iverson average a lot of assists too. That’s what happens when you hold the ball a lot. You’re bound to get assists just off the mere fact that you’re the last person to pass the ball to the guy who just scored. Nash himself said that assist is one of the most deceiving stat.

    The sad thing is, Houston needs a good play making point guard and they’ll improve drastically. If they had Steve Blake, I’d be worried about them. With Brooke, not worried at all. Yao’s going to get frustrated real soon as he will not get the ball down low in good position with Kevin Martin and Brooke ball hogging.

    For now, I would just let Brooke score 25 points and shut down everyone else… unlike the way the Lakers shut down Chase Bud and Scola.


  2. Bench was awesome last night. Big improvement over last season. Ratliff was a solid defensive presence and stayed within himself on offense. Barnes showed fearless hustle and willingness to move the ball on offense. SB played awesome perimeter help defense and a confident outside shot. Blake can flat-out shoot the ball.

    That’s gonna be a really tough unit to beat when LO rejoins the bench. None of those guys appeared to be “lost” last night.

    I also really like how Ron Artest was playing as comfortably within the triangle as he did at any point last season. And he’s still hungry for some D-fense


  3. much has been said about the kobe-blake offensive set at the end of the fourth last night…..let’s take a look at a part that probably just seemed as a mere side note: was kobe actually passing blake the ball?…..or was it to pau and he missed it?

    i don’t know if it was just my eyes, but i saw a heady blake properly space himself, simultaneous to the breaking pau down the lane on a dive. kobe pulls up and passes a pass that could’ve been construed as going to pau, but i saw a pau going up and recognizing the pace of the pass and withdrawing his hands ever so slightly at the last moment and it getting to blake in perfect time and rhythm, easy to knock down a shot like that…………are these guys kidding me?……..ha!


  4. Good free-throw shooting last night helped a lot as well. I’d like to see that continue all season.

    Scola bugs me, but the guy is a tough player.


  5. I think I just figured out why I’m so excited about our bench. I honestly have great expectations for each bench player on our team. Their potential is great. We know that they can play solid games, but we also know that they can elevate their games to fit the moment (or again, they have the potential to). There were so many bench players from last years’ squad that couldn’t fit that description. I was a fan of Mbenga and JPowell, but we all know that when they checked in, they weren’t going to wow anyone. The same could be said about Sascha and Farmar.

    This year the mentality goes from “don’t mess this up” to “go get em” as far as our bench is concerned.
    PS, 1 exam down, 4 more to go. (still studying!)


  6. Very well-reasoned post, Darius – but I have to disagree a little bit. I thought Blake struck a perfect balance between being a distributor and shooter last night. I wouldn’t want him to be more aggressive to look for his own shot at all.

    Look, I think Blake is a perfect addition to the team, but he’s still a limited player. What makes him fantastic for the team is he actually understands those limits and plays to his strengths. He doesn’t shoot unless he’s in rhythm and his feet are set (what a novel concept!). He’s not going to try to force a shot – instead he works the ball around to keep everyone involved.

    Look we’ve done the Fisher analysis to death, and he’ll always be a Laker legend – we’ll always remember his gigantic shots in the playoffs, how he single-handedly won Game 3 of the 2010 Finals for the Lakers when they looked dead.

    But the truth of the matter is, he’s a severely limited player who jacks up (and misses) too many bad shots. I know it’s a chicken and the egg argument, but I wonder if all his heroics in the fourth quarter would be needed if he hadn’t been forcing up blanks for the first 3 quarters?

    Listen, I don’t want this to turn into a bash Fisher post. At the end of the day, he’s proven that his leadership and presense is invaluable to the team. LO and Fish are the reason the Laker locker room chemistry is so good.

    My point is, there are enough limited players on the Lakers who force up shots looking for their own offense (Artest, Fish, Sasha, to name a few). It’s a breath of fresh air to have a guy like Blake who looks to distribute first, and only takes a shot if he’s set and in rhythm.

    Other than continuing to familiarize himself with the offense, Blake shouldn’t change a thing.


  7. I know this is kind of random, but it amazes me that many Laker fans I know hate the Heat more than the Celtics. The Cs are our worthy adversaries and most hated rivals; the Heat have done nothing except band together a few star buddies. I can only deduce that the reason is because Lebron (pre-KD’s Team USA explosion this past summer) has been Kobe’s only significant challenger for best player in the NBA and made a summertime decision commensurate with the wisdom of my 4 year old nephew. Thoughts??


  8. The Dude Abides October 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Burgundy hit the nail on the head in the comments for the previous post about Blake. He did so many things right besides hitting all those big threes. The two obvious ones were when he recognized Shannon as having the hot hand and advanced the ball to him in transition for another made three, and later pulling the ball out after a Laker offensive board and not taking the open three offered to him by Houston’s defense.

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t believe the slight defensive upgrade Ratliff is over DJ is enough to overcome his offensive ineptitude. I’m much more confident in DJ executing a catch and dunk or a catch and pop than I am in seeing Ratliff do it. Hopefully it’s a small sample size and Theo will improve.

    This team is going to be scary when a healthy and in-rhythm Bynum gets integrated into the offense and defense. I wonder if Phil will ever try a defensive lineup of Barnes, Kobe, Ron-Ron, Pau, and Drew/Lamar. There are so many possibilities here with this team, Phil has to be giddy (or as close to what passes for “giddy” with Phil).


  9. The Dude Abides October 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    @7. Jane, it’s because we hate the Heat AND we don’t respect them. Laker fans hate the Celtics but also respect them. I was very happy watching Les Douches Trois lose last night. Bosh is a paper tiger on that team. He needs a rugged shotblocker/rebounder to do the dirty work, and Joelle Anthony is not the answer. Lebrick will need to play PG on that team, and Wade will need to do a Richard Hamilton impersonation for those two to coexist on the offensive end.


  10. 9)
    I think you’re right about DWade needed to be more Rip-like to coexist with LBJ. The only problem in that is that DWade has way too much mass to be that kind of guard. He’s got a lot of mass the move and likely doesn’t have the endurance to do it. Those guards who have had success include: Rip, Ben Gordon, and Reggie Miller – all very thin builds.

    I do think you’re correct though, but it would ruin DWades current game


  11. All of the “on paper” concerns about the Heat were definitely on full display last night. They have basically no bigs, Bosh isn’t that good, Wade and Lebron are basically the same player, and they don’t have a clear PG because they’re better off with the ball in Lebrons hands. They looked like the 08 Cavs last night, minus Varejao.


  12. What we have gained in impressive basketball skills and acumen, we have lost in character. As in cartoon character.

    W/o Mbenga, who will lead the taco unit and be Mr. Cash?

    W/o Farmar, who will frustrate me to no end? Who will spur endless debate regarding Fisher’s replacement? Who will titivate with Parker-like potential?

    W/o Powell who will sadden me with NBDL level play?

    W/o Ammo, who will creep me out w/ mustaches? Who will steal high fives?

    W/ athleticism on the wings, how can I decry Artest’s glacial drives and murder of any potential for fastbreaks?

    W/ Blake making good decisions at point, how will I bond with my friends over the limitations of our pg’s?

    What will we talk about?

    “Lakers are good. They played well. They did the right things.”

    I’m very happy that we got a lot better, but I also a little disappointed that we got somewhat more boring.


  13. @8 – Thanks for the kind words!

    My only thought about Ratliff vs. DJ is DJ is the very definition of a 10 cent head.

    Absolutely DJ is a better offensive player than Ratliff (it’s not even close).

    The benefit with Ratliff is he understands his limitations. You could bet your mortgage that the minute DJ got passed the ball, he was jacking up a shot (no matter where he was standing the court). Phil couldn’t give DJ minutes, because DJ worked completely counter to the offense (almost to a comical degree), and on defense all he did was go for the big block and foul, rather than play smart, positional defense (which Ratliff does quite well).

    It was jarring to hear Phil mention the 4 departed Lakers last night:

    Jordan Farmar
    Adam Morrison
    John Powell
    DJ Mbenga

    GOOD LORD, how did the Lakers win a championship the past two years?

    They just replaced those guys with:

    Steve Blake
    Matt Barnes
    Theo Ratliff
    Derek Carater/Devin Ebanks

    Kobe said it last night, the new guys “fit” better….which is a nice way of saying the new guys come into the game and don’t immediately start jacking up bad shots and playing lazy defense.

    Both Blake and Barnes are absurd upgrades in terms of fit and skillset over Farmar and Morrison.

    Ratliff is limited, true, but you can at least trust him not to gum up the offense and pick up dumb fouls on D (unlike DJ).


  14. #6. Slightly more balance is all I seek. Again, Blake was fantastic last night. He played tremendously. But there were times he overpassed. Granted, based off some of the guard performances we’ve seen in recent seasons, that’s a breath of fresh air. But, there will be times that more aggression is needed and he showed it last night in those instances that he was, in fact, more aggressive. When I say he could use more balance – imagine a ratio that’s off by 10% (not the 50 or 60 percent that we saw with Farmar’s overaggression). I could be nit-picking, but it’s what I saw last night.


  15. Re: Heat / Celtics

    I think that the deep foundation of loathing allows you to appreciate/respect the Green on a level. One that comes from history, especially fresh off a G7 last year. The Heat is a flavor of the weak anger.

    My analogy. The Celtics are like a disease you will always be with, yet you can have good days with it, but you still know it’s there and you despise it to all end. The Heat are like I just stubbed my toe, better yet, slammed my hand in a car door. Anger, slight frustration, but nothing more than fleeting annoyance or a temporary rage. Eh?


  16. @The Dude
    Don’t forget the Kobe vs Lebron hype is a factor as well.

    Most Lakers fans are also very loyal and passionate Kobe fans, and as a result a lot of us (me included) strongly disagree with all the hype and praise that is constantly lavished on LeBron.

    ESPN had a “countdown to free agency” section on their website last season, with a page dedicated to cover everything about Lebron that might relate to the upcoming decision/Decision. They now have a Heat Index, a section dedicated exclusively to the Miami Heat. Teams like the Yankees, Celtics, or Lakers, get to be in the sections for their respective cities along with their other local teams, despite having had more super-stars through the years, and won more titles, than the Miami Heat.

    LeBron was hailed as the true heir to Michael Jordan and the greatest of all time before he had even been drafted… Meanwhile Kobe, one of the greatest of all time, complete with a few rings, he has never been treated with nearly the same adulation and border-line worship as LeBron. We all know he never will… he doesn’t have the personality for it. But it never seems to occur to the talking heads in the media to cut him a bit of slack.

    The point I am in now finally getting to is that from where I stand, Lebron is being given for free all the respect and glory that rightfully should have belonged to Kobe, without having earned the right to any of it yet. That makes me and a lot of other Kobe fans bitter towards Lebron. By association, that bitterness is now extended to the entire Miami Heat.

    I loathe the Celtics. I despise Paul Pierce’s overly dramatic wheelchair antics and Garnett’s nearly psychotic behavior on the court. I despise how they deliberately try to get away with hard fouls and succeed. I am deeply disgusted by the way Garnett always tries to bully the rookies and bench players on the opposing team.

    But the Celtics are champions. They have earned a large number of banners, they defeated us in 2008 and nearly did it again in 2010. They are a proven team, and although I despise them (I did mention I despise them, right?) I respect them as a skilled and very dangerous opponent. They played well last night, and they deserved to win that game.

    So yes, I hate and despise the Celtics, but I also have a high level of respect for them, because they have won enough conference finals and NBA championships, to earn that respect. The new Miami Heat and their recently imported King haven’t even managed to win a regular season game yet.


  17. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) October 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Hi Darius.

    I understand what you’re saying, but I think what we’re dealing with is what we want certain players on the court to default to.

    To take an extreme example, our general preference when Bynum is wide open behind the three point line is to look for someone to pass to rather than hoisting up a three pointer.

    With Blake, I can see where you’re coming from about needing to be more aggressive in certain circumstances, but if I am given the choice I’d rather he be too passive and too willing to keep moving the ball rather than the opposite of being too willing to look for his own shot and find his own offense.

    The latter to me, being too willing to look for his own shot, is analogous to the situation we had with Farmar and Brown last year. Yes, being too passive is going to lead to situations for Blake where he passes up some reasonable opportunities where being more aggressive results in a good shot, but I’d rather that happen too often than the reverse happen to often.

    In other words, per your #13 post, I see what you’re asking for in terms of more balance, but if Blake errors in one direction or the other I’d prefer to have a guard other than Kobe, FOR ONCE, to error on overpassing rather than overshooting.

    I’d rather Blake default to over-looking or over-reliance on Kobe/Pau/Bynum than looking to dial his own number.

    It’s the same criticism that we have for Odom. Sometimes he overpasses or isn’t aggressive enough, and when that is happening it is very annoying. But the reverse is equally annoying: when he takes too many threes for instance.

    Blake is what he is: He’s a point guard. I want his instincts to be in that direction.


  18. #17. We’re in agreement there. Erring on the side of caution is prefferred to stepping outside of his strengths. My entire point, though, is that he’s smart enough to find the balance that I speak of. And I believe when he’s had more time in the offense, more practice time with his mates, and is more established on the team, that balance will come and it will come off as natural; as seamless. Last night’s run, could even be seen as the beginning stages of that. On a side note, what frustrated me most about Farmar is that he was smart enough too, but was so hard headed he never truly embraced what he could be for the Lakers.


  19. It was interesting to see the players pick their rings and how they reacted.
    It outstanded (to my eyes) that Derek seems like a person that has learned to enjoy his life.


  20. Blake as a new player on a championship team did what he was supposed to do in the first game of the season. That is to show his acumen of basketball as a pg in the triangle and to get the ball to the ‘hot hand’.

    By January, we will not be concerned about Blake’s willingness to shoot more in the offense. Why? Because last night Kobe showed more confidence in this 1st year player than he has shown in any player on his team other than Fisher to shoot a 3pt shot in a tight game, when: Kobe said to Blake, “Be ready!”

    So, who does not believe that that was Kobe’s way of preparing Blake for the time when he will be required to shoot and score with much more consistency. Last year early in the season, Kobe passed the ball to Ron Artest for a game winning 3pt shot (I believe they were on the road) and he missed. That shot prepared Ron Artest for his game 7 heroics.

    This bench needs a moniker! I’m not good with that, so I’ll leave it to some one else.

    Also, Sasha did not get any ‘burn’ so does this mean that he is relegated to the spot that Adam Morrison vacated?


  21. Don (#12), funny post. just one nit though:
    “Who will titivate with Parker-like potential?”

    perhaps you meant ‘titillate’?


  22. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) October 27, 2010 at 4:19 pm


    In other words, you see this as a work in progress and your criticism in the blog above is more of a long-term one.

    Taken from that direction – that this is the first game in a long season towards finding the proper balance between too much and too little aggression from Blake on offense – I have a hard time disagreeing with your analysis.

    I think you may be nitpicking just a little bit for so early on though. Consider where Artest was last season at this stage (or, heck, during our playoff run) and I’m supremely happy with the balance that Blake has found so far.

    There’s room for improvement. I saw some of the same things that you pointed out above in terms of Blake’s first half play. But by the same token, on the off chance that any Laker players like Steve Blake read what has become a very popular Laker blog online, I don’t want him overreacting and becoming the same soulless gunner that Farmar was last year searching for his own stats. 🙂

    On the whole, I was thrilled with Blake’s play last night and his overall progress in picking up the offense. Fisher forgive me, but me hopes for Blake are the same ones that I’ve hoped for Farmar two years running: that he takes the starting PG role by midseason.

    So in that vein, I’m envisioning Blake’s role down the line as not playing in an offense with guys like Barnes and Brown, but as a first stringer with Kobe as first option, Pau second, Bynum third and Artest fourth.


  23. Tsuwm
    You’re right I always get those words mixed up. Also, how did I forget to mention Ron Artest, who not only is levelheaded now but also became a productive citizen, a philanthropist?! Boring!


  24. #22. Indeed. Blake’s development is a work in progress, but much, much further along than many we’ve seen pass through this team during Phil’s tenure at the same stage. And, this can’t be stressed enough, I’m very pleased with Blake’s play and think he’s going to be fantastic both in the short and long term. That’s why I prefaced this post by saying that this is something I’ll watch for, not something that I’m concerned about.


  25. Mimsy’s hubby lol. Welcome! I need to get my gf to start posting


  26. Darius, I think you hit the nail on the head – Given time, Blake will find the balance – this was his first real game in triangle. I feel the same for Barnes and Ratliff. Give them some time and then let’s see where they are.

    Jane, I won’t speak for others on the Heat hate – but for me it is three things.

    1. A dislike for LeBron – King James, The Chosen One tattoo (before accomplishing anything), dancing and clowning on the sidelines, just seemed to lack class. He is a great athlete (I equate him to Shaq at his peak – just on another planet from everybody physically), but I don’t see him dedicated to the craft of the game. Maybe that will come later.

    2.The Decision and then the Miami championship celebration…er introduction of the the three players.

    3. ESPN’s basically prostrating themselves at LeBron’s feet agreeing to air the decision and then the heat index and I am waiting for them to make the Heat Index their landing page for the rest of the season.

    I don’t think it is about the LeBron/Kobe thing. It is just feeling that as a sports fan I am being force fed something and it is a reaction against that.

    It will pass and the deep Celtic loathing will still remain (but I actually like Rondo and Perkins – if only they played for other teams…)


  27. Shannon Brown needs some props here. Dude stepped up big time last night and turned the momemtum back toward the Lakers in the third quarter; that was easily one of his most-impressive performances as a Laker.

    It’s still hard to believe he was an afterthought in the Radmanovic-Morrison deal.

    If Kupchak were willing to give a truly candid answer, I’d love to get the God’s honest truth out of him on what he expected out of Shannon in that deal — did he (or anyone from the front office/bench) have any inkling Shannon would become a valued contributor, or was his progress a complete surprise to the coaches and organization?

    Regardless of the real story, I’m happy he’s a Laker.


  28. Darius, what noticed with Blake on a few possessions is that he’s more likely to pump fake on his spot-ups because he doesn’t have as much vertical lift as Shannon, Farmar, or even Fish. So unless he’s pretty much wide open, he’s not going to take the shot. I think this is going to end up being a non-issue.

    I’m looking forward to Friday and how the coaching staff decides to defend Nash. Besides Fish, will they choose the conventional way and have Blake or Brown guard him? Or will they go the “big” route and put Barnes on him? The versatility of this team has me all giddy 😀


  29. @27. Remember that Shannon torched the Lakers in a road victory in OT at Staples several weeks before that trade went down. He was drafted one spot away from Farmar and they scouted him before that draft, so they knew he could play.


  30. you guys should watch bulls and thunder right now, gonna be great, I think Rose will pre a near MVP candidate this year, I love watching him


  31. 30, I just tuned into the game, 3 fast break dunks in a row.


  32. Heat vs. Celtics

    You just hate the Heat more because they don’t deserve the hype they are getting. Celtics, on the other hand, have won a championship with the same core, and will be taken seriously until it is obvious that they are way too old to compete, which was not the case last year.

    The Celtics are like house Capulet to our house M… forgot, while the Heat are, currently, what, the Prince of Verona? They are relevant, sure, but are not really part of the game… yet.


  33. I don’t remember Shannon from that loss to the Bobcats; my memory was no one stopped Wallace that whole night.

    If Mitch really did know what he was getting, kudos for fleecing the WOAT — General Manager’s edition — Michael “The Golfer” Jordan.


  34. 13) Burgundy,
    “GOOD LORD, how did the Lakers win a championship the past two years?”

    Exactly, especially considering the injuries. Jackson does not get anywhere close to the credit he deserves.


  35. @33. Bynum stopped Wallace that night, collapsing his lung with a forearm shiv to the chest. Shannon had 14 pts in 22 minutes on 6-11 shooting, plus 4 rebs and 2 assists.


  36. Jane,
    I never really had anything against the Heat until LeBron happened along. He hung his former team out to dry on a nationally hyped and broadcast special. It was deliberate, thought out, and wrong on so many levels, including staging it within a Boys and Girls club context – those kids turned into shills as they sat on the floor and smiled uncomfortably, looking over their shoulders now and then, coached by unseen handlers. The only thing missing was the Jim Jones kool-aid.

    As for impressions about last night’s game, my lasting one will be of the sideline eruption as Shannon kept knocking them down – the expression on Fish’s face was classic. It’s the true connection of a team on the same page while the Heat just seem like an arranged marriage gone bad.


  37. Um…yeah…this Blake Griffin guy is pretty good. Wow. If the Clips can stay healthy, they’re going to make the playoffs. Yes, I said it.


  38. Dude – I haven’t seen Griffin yet, how does he compare to a young Amare? Both in terms of skillset and overall potential?


  39. I might have spoken too soon regarding the Clips and the playoffs. I forgot about the Vinny Del Negro factor, which is a massive negative in the tough Western Conference.

    Snoopy, his athleticism and skill around the rim is off the charts. I’ve never seen anything like this before, although I bet a pre-injury Amare would be a reminder.


  40. Speaking of first impressions..

    Griffin is making a pretty good one so far. Showing his athleticism in getting quickly and really high to get rebounds, had a great spin move off the dribble, runs the floor hard, and even had a couple nice passes.


  41. Darius – Wow. I believe the proper adjective here is “beastly.”

    But if you look at that first dunk carefully, look at how he came down on that knee. Made me wince. He’s got to be more careful or put on a brace or something, but with landings like that he has a high chance of injuring something again.


  42. Griffin is a physical freak. But I was more surprised/impressed with his bball IQ. During this game, he showed an impressive passing / ball handling ability. I think he’s had 6-7 dishes for layups or fouls. He led the break 3 times for successful fastbreaks. And this is only the end of the 3rd.

    Unlike Stoudemire, he cares about rebounding and can use his bulk to get position (even though he doesn’t seem to need it as he usu comes flying from the FT line to get rebounds but has superb timing). He also has a better second jump. He has incredible hands. But he still makes some mistakes like driving in traffic or slow rotation.

    Agree with the notion that never seen anything like it. The closest thing I can compare him to is a taller Barkley.


  43. What’s even more impressive are his rebound baskets of his own missed shots. He missed an 8-foot bank shot but made a high-flying put-back layup from a couple feet away after jumping past two or three defenders.


  44. Barely squeaked out the win, few quick thoughts on the Lakers and other teams: My buddy and did a quick podcast on some super early impressions of certain team/ players:


  45. One more thought regarding Blake Griffin: I don’t see how he can possibly last the season if he doesn’t rein in his “reckless abandon” style of play. Oh, and Vinny? When you have a four-point lead in the final quarter and Portland switches to a zone, gets two stops in a row while your team looks totally confused, and meanwhile gets two scores in a row and ties the game, you probably should call timeout before they go on a 15-0 run. The Clips never displayed a “zone offense” during that stretch. Absolutely pathetic. Your coaching repertoire should be wider than just yelling “HA!” at opposing 3-pt shooters.


  46. Chris J,
    On the Morrison/Brown trade…
    It was the media that said that trade was all about Adam Morrison – because of the salary equity with Rad.

    What I also heard was that the Bobcats didn’t want to include Shannon in the deal, but Mitch wouldn’t do it without him.

    Yes, I think the Lakers wanted to get rid of Vlade, but I also think they wanted to get something back for the trade and Brown was the more likely commodity than was Adam Morrison.

    That is also what I thought at the time.


  47. Craig, at least on this site, it may have been you, it was mentioned that the trade’s target could’ve been Shannon more than Adam, and I think most agreed, but I still think that the biggest target was ridding Vlad and his contract. If he could have done so without taking Adam or Shannon, he probably would’ve done it.

    In retrospect, I think Mitch might have had a plan for the future all along, which is to say that he realized that Kobe wasn’t going to be athletic much longer, and that he needed to surround him with athletes.

    Thus, looking at it now, I don’t think Morrison was the ‘centerpiece’ in terms of player movement, although there may have been some hope that he would perform within the triangle as a spot up shooter… much like a mini-Vlad 😉

    Anyway, both Ariza and Shannon have seemed to come from that athletic train of thought, although of course when Artest happened, it was hard to pass him by even if it meant losing Ariza.

    Then of course we all saw that we needed some order in the 2nd unit after Luke went down, so he snagged Blake, made up athletic losses with Barnes…

    … and hopefully the season will end just as happily as the seasons prior.


  48. So far a half of a game up on the Heat… we are going to need homecourt


  49. Dude,
    It’s definitely a little scary watching Griffin play because of the knee but it’s how he’s always done it, from high school to the Sooners. The guy’s like a high-fly linebacker and it’s all or nothing.


  50. watching that play by blake griffin, has probably help me find a non-lakers player i will root for this season.

    i think he’ll win ROY


  51. blake griffin’s winning mcdonald dunk contest


  52. #37 – Agreed. I’ve been waiting to hear/read someone else saying this. After the ring ceremony (which was a very “together” moment), the team looked the happiest to be around each other that I’ve seen in ages. Nothing forced, everyone seemed loose, on the same page and involved. It was just great to see.


  53. I’d say Blake Griffin is the new Kenyon Martin


  54. @53
    good thoughts.

    although whether blake griffin can bring the clippers to NBA finals and get swept is remained to be seen. 🙂

    but good assessment nonetheless.


  55. Darius,
    What are your thoughts on Houston being the biggest threat to LA other than Oklahoma City? I know Yao is only going to play every other game to keep his legs fresh for the postseason, but by the time he gets back into game shape and they have all had time to play together in my opinion they will be a legitimate threat. I mean teams like Dallas and San Antonio are solid teams but Houston top to bottom has more talent than most teams in the league. With a healthy Yao I think it could be a long series between the two teams.

    You all can take Blake Griffin in the ROY race, I’ve got to stick with my boy John Wall since he’s going to be running the show in Washington.


  56. @Don
    I didn’t actually try to get him here. I just keep talking about this blog all season and how great it is, and apparently he got curious. 🙂

    And in other news, a very interesting write-up of “stats vs eyeball test” on SS&R


  57. This bench is the best we’ve had in years, perhaps dating back to the 80’s. This team is as good as it needs to be to three-peat, without question.

    Check out my Laker preview:


  58. @Mimsy,
    I like your style, directly telling her would be too obvious.

    Great read at SSR btw