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Phillip Barnett —  January 24, 2011

From Dexter Fishmore: SBNation: Lamar Odom strains the vocabulary of hoops criticism. To understand how, begin with the question of positional taxonomy. Every Lakers box score, depth chart and official game program will tell you that Lamar is a power forward, and indeed he is. He plays on the front line alongside either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, and on defense he guards opposing fours. But he doesn’t fit neatly into any of the power-forward substrata recognized by the analytical vernacular. Although he can shoot three-pointers with some competence, he’s not a classic “stretch four” in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki. And although he has a potent scoring touch around the rim, he doesn’t have the back-to-the-basket post game of a Carlos Boozer or Zach Randolph. He’s probably closest to the “point forward” archetype that we associate with Scottie Pippen, but even that label seems a bit misapplied, as Lamar doesn’t handle the ball or initiate his team’s offense quite as often as Pippen did his. Lamar spends time in each of these categories but never lingers long in any of them.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Listen up, nerds: I’ve got a pop quiz for you. Without looking it up, and not counting the preseason, can you tell me the last time the Lakers played an overtime game? I’ll give you a few moments to ponder. You can’t come up with it, can you? That’s understandable, because it’s been a long, long time since a Lakers game was tied at the end of regulation. It hasn’t happened since March 4th of 2010 in Miami. The Heat’s starting lineup that night included Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal. Since then, the Lakers have played 88 regular-season and playoff games, and not one of them has gone to OT. That’s a little strange, yes?

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: From an efficiency standpoint, the Lakers are allowing relatively close to the same number of points per 100 possessions this year (101.7) as they did a season ago (101.1). Unfortunately, a figure good enough to tie for fifth last year, only .9 behind the league leader leaves them ninth this season, almost five points worse than the league’s top squad. Good enough for then hasn’t been good enough for now. The relative lack of performance, along with providing a squad struggling with some of the fairly natural issues of focus popping up after three straight Finals runs and consecutive titles, prompted the coaching staff to make some adjustments on the defensive side of the ball a few weeks ago.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Philosophically, Jerry West and Phil Jackson rarely agree on much. The former Lakers star and general manager has long maintained that talent determines championship success. The current Lakers coach believes it’s the system — the triangle, teamwork, managing egos to achieve a final goal — that’s pointed to his 11 championship rings. But there’s at least one point on which the two men reach consensus — the Lakers’ defense needs work. “If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get it?” West asked as the keynote speaker Thursday during the annual Orange County Automobile Dealers Assn. luncheon. “The reason you ‘can’t play defense’ is because you can’t!”

From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: More revisionist history. In lieu of actual trades or real transaction fodder, it seems like this is the only thing NBA types have to rely upon for talking points at times. This time around, it’s Kobe Bryant talking, and making no sense. Smug beyond belief as a cadre of Denver-area reporters approached him on Thursday to talk all things Carmelo-ish, Bryant brought up his own self-styled soap opera from 2007, one that saw him demand a trade during the spring of that year, a move that nearly resulted in a deal with the Chicago Bulls that fall.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPNLA: The front end of the Lakers’ center rotation has been intact since Andrew Bynum returned to the lineup last month. Sunday during practice, they took a step towards getting the back end whole as well. Veteran center Theo Ratliff, who on Nov. 17 underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to perform a partial meniscectomy on his left knee, returned to the practice floor. The 37-year-old Ratliff, a 15-year NBA veteran, hasn’t played since Nov. 9. In eight games, he’s averaging 0.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks a game.

From Michael C. Lewis, Salt Lake Tribune: Ron Artest was only about half-listening, fiddling with his iPhone at his locker stall after a recent Los Angeles Lakers victory at Staples Center until part of a question about the Jazz grabbed his attention. “They haven’t won here,” the veteran forward said, looking up with his eyes widening, “in how long?” Yeah, he heard right. The Jazz haven’t beaten the Lakers on the road in 16 consecutive attempts — including eight in a row in the NBA playoffs — dating back more than five years to Jan. 1, 2006, when superstar Kobe Bryant was suspended and only three of his current teammates were on the team.

Phillip Barnett

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