(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
From Henry Abbott, Truehoop: “Journey to the Ring” is essentially a coffee table book, starring some fantastic black-and-white photography, which Andrew Bernstein discusses on ESPNLosAngeles. But it also has some thoughtful remembrances and commentary from Laker coach Jackson, which even has some hoops insight. For instance:
- Jackson says that he often likes to get the ball into a big man in the paint on the game’s first possession. That’s not so rare. But less known may be the reason he gives: To expose an opponent’s game plan. Will they front in the post? Double? “We want to get adjusted to those strategies,” he writes, “right out of the blocks.” Here’s an idea: If you’re coaching against the Lakers, do something quirky guarding the post early, ’cause it’s a good bet the coaching staff will be watching closely and making decisions.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant has come up with a neat little triangle of his own to determine what three qualities make up a great team: intensity, toughness and unselfishness. “We have all three,” Bryant said. Victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves being a certainty Tuesday night, the Lakers will be 8-0 – a better start than any previous Phil Jackson-coached Lakers team, and there have been a few good ones. (In fact, the only Lakers team to start faster is the 1997-98 team that went 11-0 in Year 2 of Shaq & Kobe. But it won only four of its next nine.) Pau Gasol has been the NBA MVP, Lamar Odom an All-Star and Ron Artest the Defensive Player of the Year. New addition Steve Blake played savior with his hero shot on ring night. And no one has used the words “Andrew Bynum,” “knee” and “setback” in the same sentence.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: There the Lakers sat on the bench laughing as frequently and quickly as a sitcom soundtrack. With ice bags wrapped around his right knee, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant huddled between Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown. With Bryant’s arms wrapped around each of them, they all bore wide smiles across their face. A few seats down, Lakers forward Ron Artest cusped his hand over his mouth and whispered to Pau Gasol. In return, Gasol let out the kind of boisterous laugh you’d see out of an uncle amused by the antics of his young nephew. What they said during the final minutes of the Lakers’ 121-96 victory Sunday over the Portland Trail Blazers wasn’t so much important. But their body language revealed a lot about the Lakers’ current state of being.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: While the Lakers aren’t in top form defensively yet, a look inside the numbers (love you, HoopData!) shows things haven’t been all that bad. With one glaring exception, that is. Perhaps the most repeated criticism of the Lakers’ defense is the 101.4 points per game they’ve allowed. Toss out the 83 points surrendered to Golden State and the best the Lakers have done is Sunday’s 96. The other numbers: 110, 106, 105, 100, 103. Points allowed, though, isn’t really the best figure to measure team defense, particularly this early in the season when the schedule can skew things rather dramatically. Six of L.A.’s seven opponents (all but Portland) are in the top half in the NBA in pace (average number of possessions over 48 minutes). Five of seven (Phoenix, Houston, Sacramento, Portland, Golden State) are in the top half for offensive efficiency (number of points scored per 100 possessions). In a nutshell, the Lakers have seen a lot of high speed and high efficiency offenses over the first seven games, sometimes in the same night.
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Seven games (and seven wins) into the 2010-2011 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a nice little run of success. They are atop the league with a 7-0 record (New Orleans is also undefeated but with one fewer game to their credit), and they have the highest point differential in the league, winning games by an average of 13.7 points. Their offense has been all the rage, and deservedly so. After another virtuoso performance last night, the Lakers are miles in front of the rest of the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 118.3 points per 100 possessions. The second-ranked team, the Atlanta Hawks, clock in with a 114.9 Offensive Rating, and third-place Phoenix is another large dropoff away at 111.5. Credit a team-first mentality across the entire roster (as evidenced in part by both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol earning a triple-double in the past week) and a massive uptick in three-point shooting that may or may not be a mirage. The ball movement alone is such a jaw-dropping improvement over last year’s squad that I firmly believe, despite the small sample size, that the Lakers’ offense has taken permanent residence among the league’s elite.
From Mark Travis, But The Game is On: Over the past two years, no player has been criticized more often than Derek Fisher. As the starting point guard on the best team in the NBA, Fisher has been the weak link for a team that sported Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest in their starting line-up and the rapid evolution of the point guard position made the always-wanting-more Lakers’ fanbase beg for a change at the point guard position. Fisher’s play during the regular season certainly didn’t help the matter. Besides being a complete liability on the defensive end that could’t stay in front of the plethora of quick point guards in the league today, Fisher also saw his field goal percentage drop below 40% and was hitting three pointers at a poor rate (35%). So, as a point guard that couldn’t defend or shoot well in an offense that didn’t need a facilitating point man, Fisher’s only positive contributions during the first 82 games of the season was his veteran leadership, and that wasn’t enough to to a constant flow of criticism towards him.
From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: With L.A.’s 7-0 start, predictably, comes a bunch of superlative statistics when compared to the rest of the NBA’s teams. Here’s a breakdown of pertinent categories, with the disclaimer that it’s only seven games into the 82-game season, and the Lakers have played a relatively easy schedule: Scoring: No. 1 The Lakers are averaging a healthy 114 points per game to lead the NBA. With Pau Gasol (24.1) and Kobe Bryant (22.9) leading the way, L.A. is also getting a healthy 15.9 poings from Lamar Odom, while four other players are averaging at least 9.1 points: Derek Fisher; Shannon Brown; Ron Artest; and Matt Barnes.
From John Schuhmann, Yahoo! Sports: The lesson that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers taught us last year—that great teams can pace themselves in the regular season and flip the switch once the playoffs begin—has apparently been forgotten by the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. With the exception of Boston’s post-opener hangover in Cleveland, the two conference champs have been perfect through the first two weeks of the season. While other contenders are still trying to find their rhythm or losing focus from night to night, the Lakers and Celtics have hit the ground running, despite injuries to key players.