Preview and Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Darius Soriano —  December 15, 2010

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Records: Lakers 18-7 (3rd in West), Pacers 11-12 (7th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.3 (1st in NBA), Pacers 104.0 (21st in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (11th in NBA), Pacers 102.6 (9th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Pacers: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Pacers: none

The Lakers Coming in: Apparently, yesterday was a bad day for me to get sick since there was a lot of news with the Lakers.  So while I sip on another Thera-flu, let’s get right to it in discussing all the ins and outs of a busy Tuesday for the Lakers.

First, Andrew Bynum returned last night and I thought he looked as good as could be expected considering his long lay off.  There were a couple of plays where his footwork was awkward and he was unable to convert the two lobs that were tossed his way, but those were the only down moments on a pretty successful evening.  In his 17 minutes of game action, ‘Drew did a good job of changing ends and he used his (massive) size effectively to create post up chances on offense and block/alter shots on defense.  In the end though, his biggest impact came in how he provided rest and an interior alternative for Pau and Odom.  Throughout the game Gasol especially looked fresher and more comfortable on the floor as he no longer had to preserve energy while also taking all the banging down low – two things that don’t really go well together.

The other big news was obviously the trade of Sasha and LA’s 2011 first round pick as part of a three team deal that netted them Joe Smith, two second round picks, and Ukrainian big mag Sergei Lishouk.  This trade has a lot of positives and I’m quite pleased with the haul the Lakers received and the financial benefits that result from the deal.  Looking at the money first, the Lakers save nearly $9 million this year in salary and luxury tax payments in the swap of The Machine for Smith.  They also gain a trade exception of almost $5.5 million according to cap guru and CBA expert Larry Coon.  All of this money will bolster the Lakers chances of being able to spend more next off-season or use the trade exception to take on salary without giving up any players should a player come available that the Lakers really want to bring on board.

As for the haul of Smith, picks, and Lishouk are concerned, I’m very happy that the Lakers have been able to supplement their big man depth (a real need), grab additional second round picks that can be added to the roster or stashed in Europe with little financial commitment, while also grabbing the rights to a seasoned European big man that currently plays in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.  Obviously the picks and Loushik are potential pieces for future seasons and can’t be looked at as anything more than assets, but Smith is a guy that can help this year as another serviceable big that can hit the top of the key and baseline jumpshot while also providing decent low post defense.  Plus with Ratliff still out of commission from his knee surgery, Smith provides a contingency plan in case Theo’s recovery takes longer than expected.  Overall, this is a win for the Lakers as they’ve accomplished what many would have thought impossible: they’ve traded Sasha, saved money in the process, and picked up assets that can help down the line without taking on any additional salary.  Really, Mitch Kupchak has done it again.

One last note on Sasha, I’m happy that he’s going to get a fresh start and wish him nothing but the best in New Jersey.  While his tenure with this team had its severe ups and downs and could mostly be characterized by frenetic play that upset Lakers fans as much as the opposition, Sasha provided some good moments that I’ll remember for a long time.  His two FT’s to clinch last year’s title are the obvious, but his inspired play in 2008 also helped the Lakers reach the Finals and really contributed to the turnaround of this organization from first round fodder to contender.  His role in all of that was indeed limited and behind the bigger roles of Kobe/Pau/Bynum/etc, but he’s a guy that always worked hard and gave it his all on the court.  And for that, at least, I’ll remember him fondly.  Plus I’ll miss his videos.

The Pacers Coming in: Since the 5 game stretch at the end of November when the Pacers took down both the Heat and the Lakers, the team from the Hoosier state hasn’t been able to find a real rhythm.  They’ve lost 5 of their 7 games this month and haven’t beaten a quality team since they visited Staples Center and took out the Lakers (their two wins this month have come against the Bobcats and the Raptors).  So right at the time that many thought the Pacers were breaking through and starting to show that they can be a pretty good team in the East, they’ve stagnated.  It’s like they’ve come back to earth before ever really taking off.

Plus, their coach seems to be making some strange decisions and showing tougher love than what may really be needed with his up and coming team.  Recently, Jim O’Brien sat Darren Collison down the stretch of a close game in favor of AJ Price.  When Collison was asked about being parked on the pine, he offered that he “didn’t know why (he) didn’t play”.  Then you have the comments he made about Roy Hibbert to the media where he basically said that his much improved Center “isn’t really having a good season”.  I’ve always liked O’Brien as a coach as he typically gets the most out of his players.  He runs creative schemes on both sides of the ball and his results are usually better than expected considering the talent on his roster.  But, in this case, I’m really not sure what he’s up to or what he hopes to accomplish by taking the stance that he has with two of his best young players.  We’ll have to see if this leads to better play, because even though they currently sit in 7th in the East this group does need to turn it back around.

Pacers Blogs: Jared Wade continues to do a bang up job covering the Pacers over at 8 Points, 9 Seconds.

Keys to game: When these two teams met last month, the Pacers controlled the paint on both sides of the ball and pulled out the win mostly with their ability to defend well and control the tempo of the game.  Tonight, if the Lakers are to get the season split, they’ll need to turn the tables on the Pacers by taking that same formula and making it their own.

Offensively this means attacking the interior through quick post ups and by utilizing the actions of the Triangle to get good shots going towards the hoop.  Last night against Washington, the Lakers did a very good job of being patient on offense and waiting for cutters to break open and then delivering the ball on time to get shots at the rim.  Those same techniques can be utilized tonight against the Pacers if the Lakers commit to running their sets and executing them cleanly.  That means setting good screens off the ball and cutting hard when Kobe, Pau, and Bynum are in the post.

The other key on offense will be to make the extra pass against a good defensive team.  The Pacers do a great job of playing a disciplined defense where they rarely gamble and funnel players to the paint so that their bigs can contest shots.  To beat this type of defense, the Lakers will need to penetrate the gaps but then look to make the pass to the open man when the help comes.  In the last game the Lakers got too caught up playing in isolation and it led to bad shot attempts and a lot of Kobe ball.  Kobe did his best to keep the Lakers in it by having a 41 point outburst, but in order to get the win tonight, more balance will be needed and that means moving the ball on to the open man when possible.

Defensively, the Lakers need to defend the paint.  In the first match up, the Pacers made 22 of their 33 FG’s within 10 feet where Hibbert and the Pacers’ wings were way too comfortable posting up and attacking off the dribble.  The Lakers need to do a much better job of fighting Hibbert for position while simultaneously closing down driving lanes better.  Having Bynum back will aid in this, but I’m also looking for Artest and Kobe to do a better job on their men by not gambling as much for steals and by playing better position D when the Pacers run their myriad of screens and cuts to free up their perimeter scorers.

On the second night of a back to back, this will be a good test for the Lakers to see if Bynum can be productive and if the rest that the Lakers got last night will carry over into tonight.  Motivation should be easy to come by considering the results of their last meeting, but it will take more than just wanting it tonight.  The Lakers are going to have to exceed the execution of the Pacers and play hard throughout in order to get the separation that they’ll need to pull this game out down the stretch.  Hopefully, we’ll see that commitment to playing a full 48 that we saw last night against the Pacers this evening.

Where you can watch: 4pm start time out west on KCAL.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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46 responses to Preview and Chat: The Indiana Pacers

  1. This one’s for Warren (and a little payback to the Pacers)

  2. Mitch does it again…saves the team a bundle of dough, that Golden State 2011 pick could end up pretty early in the 2nd round, and Joe Smith is definitely an upgrade over an inactive Theo Ratliff. I definitely wish Sasha well. To me, those two FTs in Game 7 were totally worth his contract, especially since his contract didn’t cost me a dime personally.

  3. I wonder how many attempts Mitch had to make to finally find a team (one born every minute) to take on Sasha’s contract?
    I wonder if he made a (wish)list of sorts, and started going down the list…
    I had heard somewhere the Knicks had Ronnie on the block, if this was true, then I bet he was at the top of the list. (wouldn’t that have been an ironic trade?)
    I guess the challenge was about Sasha’s large contract, not really about talent, or finding a matching salary, who could he find that could actually absorb this and then from there find a way to structure something.
    all this leads to Joe Smith.
    wasn’t this the guy who got McHale suspended for violating draft rules?

  4. Maybe we should bring the Ukranian over to teach Kobe a new language now that his Slovenian teacher is gone. I remember reading an article a while ago that said Sash was teaching Kobe how to swear in his native tongue, along with a few other things. The man knows Italian, Spanish, some Slovenian, bring on the Ukranian!

    This will be number 3 on our way to my self-Nostradomus-ed double-digit win streak. The time is right, don’t judge me!

  5. @#3 Chris H, yes Joe Smith was the player that McHale targeted that ended up costing Minny several #1 picks. Minny signed Joe to an under the market deal but had signed paperwork promising him a much larger deal once the original deal expired.

    I’m sure these kinds of under the table deals are done all the time but Minny was stupid enough to commit on paper and have a smoking gun. Everyone just works off a handshake and a wink knowing the penalties for being caught.

  6. Trade
    Joe Smith is washed up and a PF. Character is better at this point. But we save money, we have that trade exemption and that big guy over in europe… so we have that going for us… which is nice.

    Bynum
    He looked a little over weight and a lot slower… all of which is to be excpected. We all rememeber how bad Kobe looked after a similar knee surgery with only two months off. Bynum hasn’t played basketball on both legs since May. By the playoffs he will be back at 100%.

  7. Are contracts that expire at the end of the year taken into account when calculating the luxury tax for that year? In the past I’ve heard people (possibly incorrectly?) mention that. Can someone please clarify for me? Because if that’s the case, while the Lakers would still save on the difference between Sasha and Smith’s contracts, it wouldn’t be quite as much, right?

  8. Lane,
    You are responsible for the contracts you end the year with. However, the luxury tax and salary cap thresholds are determined before the year begins.

    Sasha’s trade saves the Lakers his salary, minus Joe’s salary divided by 2 – the NBA pays 1/2 a 16yr vet’s min salary, then all that doubled because the Lakers are over the Lux Tax level. Quite a haul Mitch got for the good doctor Buss.

    What is so amazing is the Joe fills a definite need for us; plus we got a very good 2nd round pick that is not guaranteed a salary, another 2nd round throw-in pick, a 6-11 European who m-a-y-b-e holds down the end of the bench someday, and a possible trade exemption (I never heard if this was definitely part of the deal or a result of the deal).

  9. Thanks for the clarification, Craig.

    I agree it’s a great deal. Although now I have to figure out what to do with my Vujacic jersey. :)

  10. Can someone please explain the implications of next year’s lockout on the trade? Will players under contract receive prorated salary based on the length of the season? What about for non-guaranteed contracts– will they just begin day one = the first game played (even if that means a 41 game season?)

    Also, Mitch, on AM 570, basically said Smith isn’t going to play any real minutes this season. This was a salary dump/exemption grab, pure and simple. If Smith gives us a couple of fouls against SA or Bos in the playoffs… well, we shouldn’t expect much more than that. I always enjoy the comic relief of press releases about players arriving to a new team when it’s quite clear that they were just a name in front of a series of numbers. Another factor is that the Lakers get two 2nd round draft picks next year— each of which may be better than a first round pick for the lakers because our pick is likely to be so low and the contracts won’t be guaranteed (better for the LAL to have pick #35 (GS’s pick) unguaranteed than our #29 guaranteed), especially in terms of Mitch’s ability to use the MLE that he just received to fill whatever holes this season might reveal. In other words, a 1st round pick obligates us to offer a guaranteed contract to a late pick rookie, whereas with the 2nd rounder, we can see if we can do better on the open market with the MLE and get a player who is ready to contribute NOW, not a project.

    This was great deal for Buss personally and a very good deal for the Lakers.

  11. Honestly, the thing I like most about this trade is that we just upped our chances big time to being able to hold onto Shannon (and less importantly Barnes.) Shannon is having a serious coming out year and has nearly doubled his value at this point in the season. I think the market would be too much for us to handle for him if we didn’t have this extra dough to throw his way next season. Good job Mitch. It seems like he really knows how to handle the front office to a T these days. I was sceptacle when I heard we gave up our 1st round pick but when I found out we got a 2nd round in return and that means one less guaranteed contract, I was really impressed. I think we got done exactly what we needed to when it came to dumping Sasha. Now let’s woop on the Pacers in celebration of Dr. Buss’s pockets getting a little fatter!

  12. Far be it for me to be the optimist, but I do think that Joe Smith has quite a large reserve tank. If the fans got giddy about Theo’s corpse, we should definitely be giddy about Joe. Looking forward to hopefully getting revenge on Bird’s team tonight.

  13. OMG! Ron came out on fire. If we got this from Ron all the time we’d be unstoppable. keep it up Ron.

    As I said this he kept a play alive to get Pau a reverse dunk. He’s doing the big and little things right now. Amazing!

  14. This is how you start the 2nd game of a back-to-back on the road.

    I like it.

  15. The only way this trade could have been any better would have been if we could have also shipped Luke out in exchange for a bagel with cream cheese.

  16. Those were Ron Artest’s most effective minutes as a Laker. Wow. Six points (3-3 FG), one rebound, one assist, and two steals in seven minutes of play.

  17. I think Drew getting back is having a mental effect on Pau. He now looks like he can take it to the basket without the fear of picking up fouls or wearing down towards the end of the game.

  18. MannyP – I wish that I could trade something for a bagel with cream cheese. Very hard to get those here in Australia!

    Nice to see Steve Blake making the shots. Maybe after all those misses off his passes in the 4th yesterday, he’s decided to do it himself today!

  19. 15 Manny, You sound like my jewish grandpa. LOL

    We look absolutely amazing one quarter into this game. I wonder what’s driving us in this particular game. Presidential treatment, return of our starting center, losing the girl on the team etc. Well whatever it is, I hope we keep it up for 3 more quarters.

  20. Am I sleeping or is that Jeff Foster in real-life, resurrected form?

  21. Pau is so ON today. Loving it.

  22. Manny, that’s hilarious. Heck, I’d even offer the bagel. Luke and bagel for nothing. That’d be better.

    Also, Pau looks happy.

  23. I officially give up on trying to figure out why Phil calls the timeouts he does.

  24. Commentators have completely stopped talking about the game and are just rambling on about Indiana and the NBA as league. I guess they already know its over.

  25. Its nice to see Pau playing like Pau. I’ve missed that for the past 3-4 weeks.

  26. Well, that’s a half to enjoy. Kobe facilitating and Pau just taking whatever he wanted. Add in Ron’s offensive outburst and LO’s ability this season to finish, and it was just a pleasure.

    Hope the 2nd half doesn’t require a lot of minutes from the starters.

  27. Jim Hill’s math is slightly off…59-37 is not a 32-pt lead.

  28. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the first half. Pau is zoning right now! The Lakers need come to come out with the knock-out blow for the third and rest the starters for the fourth.

    Also, the Knicks-Celtics game appears to be a good one. It would be nice to see the New York City boys snap Boston’s win streak.

  29. Funny, but I didn’t hear the halftime crew mention the team’s 27-10 rebound advantage at the half. On their misses, it was 22-1. On ours, it was only 9-5 in their favor.

  30. A little bit of Kobe time to start the 2nd half is good to see.

  31. The ad company that came up with this new McDonald’s coffee commercial needs to be executed.

  32. Just following the game thru the box scores. Drew is only 0-1fg and 5 reb. Not getting much burn today?

  33. Brown has had like 3 3rd quarter buzzer beaters this year! It’s amazing. Shannon is the Kobe Bryant of 3rd quarters. LOL

  34. Really, Phil?

  35. Did we really need to put all those starters back on the floor with 6 minutes left and a 20 point lead?

  36. I was going to ask the same question… did the lead evaporate for the starters to come back in?

  37. So surprised the Lakers were able to get somebody to take Sash.

    Guess that’s why the Nets are horrible – horrible front office decisions surely help (see also: Warriors, Clippers).

  38. @37. The Nets made that trade for one reason only, and that was to get two more 1st round picks to give them a chance at you-know-who.

  39. ‘Melo?

    If so, too bad for them …

  40. Quick question – isn’t Sergei 28 years old? In that case he’s not really a stashed away project is he?

  41. @40. I do believe that he’s a stiff.

    Celtics got lucky.

  42. What a 4th quarter for the Knicks game, huh? I was going crazy when STAT sunk that three. He almost became the new mr. .4!

  43. It was nice to see Luke get some run tonight to cut down on LO’s minutes.

    Artest with another good game on offense, he really looks like he is moving better without the ball.

    Looks like Noah is going to be out a couple of months – what a total bummer for the Bulls. I was rooting for them in the East.

  44. @42. Knicks win if the refs call the foul on the Felton drive in the final minute when he got shoved off the end of the floor, then Boston got the rebound and Allen hit a three while Felton was still rolling around on the ground. Potential five-point swing there, from Knicks up two if Felton gets the foul and the two FTs, to Celtics up three.

  45. No lies there dude. Although there were missed calls all around in that game so I’m not that mad. Gallinari got an and one play in the last couple minutes that was just a complete flop. So that would have put them down by 4 instead of 3. So, I chalk this up as a great effort by the Knicks and I hope they press on and stay successful through the season. They are a team I can really respect and be proud of as an NBA fan.